Defending the Holy Land

A Critical Analysis of Israel's Security and Foreign Policy
Zeev Maoz
A landmark analysis of the entire history of Israel's defense and foreign policies and a fundamental reassessment of its security doctrine


Defending the Holy Land is the most comprehensive analysis to date of Israel's national security and foreign policy, from the inception of the State of Israel to the present. Author Zeev Maoz's unique double perspective, as both an expert on the Israeli security establishment and esteemed scholar of Mideast politics, enables him to describe in harrowing detail the tragic recklessness and self-made traps that pervade the history of Israeli security operations and foreign policy.

Most of the wars in which Israel was involved, Maoz shows, were entirely avoidable, the result of deliberate Israeli aggression, flawed decision-making, and misguided conflict management strategies. None, with the possible exception of the 1948 War of Independence, were what Israelis call "wars of necessity." They were all wars of choice—or, worse, folly.

Demonstrating that Israel's national security policy rested on the shaky pairing of a trigger-happy approach to the use of force with a hesitant and reactive peace diplomacy, Defending the Holy Land recounts in minute-by-minute detail how the ascendancy of Israel's security establishment over its foreign policy apparatus led to unnecessary wars and missed opportunites for peace.

A scathing and brilliant revisionist history, Defending the Holy Land calls for sweeping reform of Israel's foreign policy and national security establishments. This book will fundamentally transform the way readers think about Israel's troubled history.

Cover photograph: Israel, Jerusalem, Western Wall and The Dome of The Rock. Courtesy of Corbis.

Zeev Maoz is Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Davis. He is the former head of the Graduate School of Government and Policy and of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, as well as the former academic director of the M.A. Program at the Israeli Defense Forces' National Defense College.

Praise / Awards

  • "No other book on this subject approaches Defending the Holy Land. Maoz's powerful indictment is based upon a massive and challenging revisionist work that is comprehensive, careful, detailed and scholarly."
    —Michael Brecher, R.B. Angus Professor of Political Science, McGill University

  • "With deep knowledge and original insight, Maoz has produced a breakthrough study. Essential reading for serious students of Israeli security and foreign policy."
    —Mark Tessler, Samuel J. Eldersveld Collegiate Professor of Political Science, University of Michigan

  • "Almost all of Israel's wars, Maoz concludes, have been 'wars of choice,' acts of aggression for the purpose of territorial expansion. They have regularly involved unintended consequences that have precipitated new dangers for Israel. With tremendous erudition, Maoz words doggedly through Israel's history to illustrate these assertions."

  • "The great strength of Defending the Holy Land lies in bringing together and integrating previous scholarship in a succinct and piercing manner. The volume is thus the most comprehensive analysis to date of Israel's national security and foreign policy from the inception of the state of Israel to the present...It is systematic, integrative, clearly written, empirically based, and theoretically informed. It will become a must read for anyone interested in the conflicts of the Middle East."
    —Eyal Ben-Ari, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

  • "This is an extraordinary book, thoroughly researched (though Israeli and Arab archives were unfortunately unavailable) and convincingly argued. It will remain a standard milepost work on Israeli security for decades to come."
    —Dr. David S. Sorenson, Air War College

  • "Maoz gives careful attention to Israel's secretive nuclear policy and its impact on the region. An illuminating exploration of Israel's intervention into the affairs of neighboring states includes Israel's covert operations in the Sudan, where it supported the Black Sudanese south against the Arab north from 1965-75; the West Bank, where it tried to create "village leagues"—these were manned by thugs loathed by the general population—to supplant the PLO."
    —Ekken Cantarow, Z-Net

  • "As befits a book dedicated to subjecting Israeli policies and policymakers to the most relentless scrutiny, the questions are those of a disciplined social scientist."
    —Ezra Mendelsohn, Studies in Contemporary Jewry

Look Inside

Copyright © 2006, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

News, Reviews, Interviews

Zeev Maoz interview

Listen: Interview on WILL AM Radio, University of Illinois

Review The Middle East Quarterly | 5/26/2009

Review ZNet | 3/21/2009

Product Details

  • 6.0 x 9.0.
  • 728pp.
  • 21 Figures, 9 Tables.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2006
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-11540-2

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  • $74.95 U.S.

  • Paper
  • 2008
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-03341-6

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  • $41.95 U.S.

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