Revival of the State

Revival of the State: A Comparison of the USA and Israel

Andrew Smith
Israel in Comparative Politics
Moshe Maor

• Introduction
• Comparison
o Why the US and Israel
• Factors and Areas of Comparison
o Institutional
o Policy
• Conclusion

The threat of international and non-governmental terrorism in the modern world has created an atmosphere of fundamental restructuring on many levels. This phenomenon has come to different areas of the world at different times. Only really reaching the western world (meaning the United States and western Europe largely) near the turn of the century, those countries have largely reacted to the growing threat since that time. Other countries have faced the threat of terror and experienced its subsequent political consequences years before the West. The terror attacks of September 11, 2001 acted as a catalyst for a fundamental shift in the way that the West dealt with the possibility of violent threats and possibilities.
Previous to that event, scholars have documented a generalized privatization tendency among democracies. The trend, termed the “hollowing of the state,” has been to move away from top heavy, bureaucratic laden government in an effort to streamline and professionalize government action characterized by shrinking government powers away from areas deemed as private. In consequence, governments have been self-restricted and lost certain powers and methods of control. (Suleiman 2003).
Following the attacks of 9/11, a new trend has emerged: “the revival of the state.” Basically comprising the opposite of the “hollowing” trend, the “revival of the state” is the process whereby the state (particularly the government, generally meaning the executive branch, though this is not always the case) reverses the retreating process and reasserts itself to regain lost powers and authority as well as asserting extended powers and influence to gain greater control and security within their spheres of sovereignty.
In this paper, I will compare and contrast two nations, the United States and Israel, to show the actions of the revival phenomenon. In both cases it can be demonstrated that following the threat of terror, the powers and scope of the government have extended. As a direct assault on the sovereignty of a state, in that it challenges the fundamental monopoly on legitimate violence held by the governmental authority, and a challenge to the government’s ability to provide for the safety and security of its citizens, violent terrorism constitutes a catalyst for the extension of state apparatuses in an effort to retain control and authority over the territory delineated as the state and over the population of citizens. Similarly, because of the fact that, in most cases, those perpetrating the terrorism qualify as “non-state” actors or associations (meaning private organizations not affiliated with nor beholden to any specific nation), terror and terrorist organizations constitute a threat to the norm of state plurality (the mutual recognition of and equal association existing between nation-states) and the balance of political power in the modern world at large. In an effort to overcome this crack in the modern world’s socio-political culture, nations will naturally take steps to extend themselves to remove this threat. Thus, it is logical to assume that terrorism is a challenge that will lead to a revival of state. Following this theoretical analysis and model, I will compare these two nations on the basis of revival within two categories: Institutional and Policy.

The Comparison: US and Israel
In an effort to show the extent and generizability of this hypothesis, I have chosen to compare two distinctly different forms of the modern nation state. Located on opposite ends of the spectrum measuring modern, representative liberal democracies, the United States and Israel have both responded in similar ways to the threat of modern terrorism.
The United States is used as a representation of an early democratic country (pre-1800s) with a presidential system, based in a written and codified Constitution and Bill of Rights. Israel on the other hand is a parliamentary PR democracy based on the Westminster model and emerged post-WWII. Both countries allow for freedoms and rights in accord with general principles of liberal democratic theory, however, whereas the US tends toward a status of “multicultural democracy,” Israel can be labeled as an “ethnic democracy” which “combines the extension of civil and political rights for all permanent residents with an institutionalized ethnic ascendancy of the majority group.” (Smooha 2001). By choosing distinctly different nations and observing little variance in their institutional and policy reactions to terror as it threatens the state, it is hoped to show that the state revival hypothesis is generizable to all democracies via the “most different model approach.”

Factors and Areas of Comparison

One of the major ways in which the revival of the state is manifested is in the creation of new or revamping of old institutions and agencies within the government in an effort to enable and foster greater governmental abilities and powers. Many times this involves large increases in bureaucracy and manpower. Both Israel and the US follow this pattern in response to critical threats of terrorist activity.
Following September 11, the US government experienced a massive initiative aimed at creating stronger national security and enhancing the governmental abilities of detecting, deterring and detaining potential terrorists on the institutional level. As a first step in the goal of strengthening the state against terror, the federal government created in 2002 the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to oversee and unify all governmental efforts for national security. The umbrella of this organization reaches from the highest positions in the federal to low-level local government organizations.
While the Department was created to secure our country against those who seek to disrupt the American way of life, our charter also includes preparation for and response to all hazards and disasters….In this spirit, it is important to acknowledge that this Strategic Plan is a living document and will be revised as needed to guide a dynamic Department and its ever-changing requirements. [1]
The DHS itself recognizes that it has been given extreme wide parameters in order to accomplish its mission. It definitely constitutes an attempt by the government to assert itself both in areas of authority previously held and those newly added. The National Strategy for Homeland Security (published in July 2002 to act as a strategy to guide the nation in crisis) identified 6 “critical areas” for DHS functioning: intelligence and warning, border and transportation security, domestic counterterrorism, protecting critical infrastructure, defending against catastrophic terrorism, and emergency preparedness and response. [2] This document effectively brings a vast array of responsibilities and authorities under the direction and authority of the executive branch of the federal government. For example (taken from only one of the areas), the document records that
The President proposed to Congress that the border and transportation security agencies—the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the U.S. Customs Service, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and the Transportation Security—be transferred to the new Department of Homeland Security. This organizational reform will greatly assist in the implementation of all the above initiatives. [3]

Expanding the Institutional category to also include legislation, another massive measure of revival within the United States was the USA PATRIOT Act. The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act was a piece of legislation highly debated within the US political sphere, but which undoubtedly expanded executive powers regarding traditionally accepted areas of government involvement, namely investigation, surveillance, prosecution, penalization and information sharing. As well the act served to expand government jurisdiction to areas previously outside of their control such as in areas of technology, especially within the field of computer and Internet terrorism. Although “the authorities Congress provided have substantially enhanced our ability to prevent, investigate, and prosecute acts of terror,” the additions also indicate an expansion of government supervision and authority into previously unrestricted spheres. [4] Some claim that these additions went too far as the government seems to be taking greater liberties (pun intended) by interfering in the private lives of citizens. Some claim that the government has extended its influence too far into the spheres of rights previously inviolate by the federal government and guaranteed by the Bill of Rights (specifically rights protecting from unreasonable searches and seizures, and/or rights of freedom of speech or press). [5]
Israel similarly reacted to increasing terrorist threats by introducing greater institutional organization. In 1999, the National Security Council (NSC) was created under the direction of the Office of the Prime Minister. As a broad, inclusive department, the NSC was intended to fulfill a similar role to that which the DHS serves in the USA (although it was a precursor). The Council consists of a number of divisions intended to strengthen the government’s power and influence in a number of areas. The main divisions include a division for foreign policy, security, and counter terrorism. As well, the council contains two official advisors—economic and legal. Most of these divisions arose earlier in the history, but it was only in 1999 when they were placed under one umbrella within the government apparatus.
The construction of most of these divisions or bureaus constitutes a revival of the state catalyzed by continuing terrorism threats and attacks. “The Counter-Terrorism Bureau was founded in March of 1996 following a wave of terror attacks…In most of its activities, the Bureau functions as an inter-organizational coordinator improving the responses of civilian and security organizations.” [6] These all constitute a reengagement on a vast level of the government within areas of previous concern and authority brought about by international terror concerns. However, the NSC also delves into new areas of assertion of authority: under the Foreign Policy Division the government declares its authority over “Energy Security: a new area of activity relating to energy issues based on a comprehensive national security perspective that includes: Energy providers, Strategic reserves, source combination.” [7] This represents governmental revival in the area of expansion into new areas of control and authority.

Another way in which the revival of the state is manifested is in the change of declared policy decisions in response to new realities and threats. These policy changes qualify as a revival when they manifest a change in governmental position or increase over previous positions to give the state better control of the area the policy is driven towards.
In the US, following September 11, President Bush declared a “War on Terror,” a descriptive policy of full American opposition to terrorism and violent extremist elements throughout the world. As such, the policy of the War on Terror was a new engagement, spreading the US allocation of resources and abilities throughout the world. In his preface to the new National Strategy for Homeland Security (produced by the newly created Department of Homeland Security), President Bush outlined his hopes and the directions of the new policy:
The U.S. government has no more important mission than protecting the homeland from future terrorist attacks. Yet the country has never had a comprehensive and shared vision of how best to achieve this goal…We must rally our entire society to overcome a new and very complex challenge. Homeland security is a shared responsibility…The National Strategy for Homeland Security is a beginning. It calls for bold and necessary steps. It creates a comprehensive plan for using America’s talents and resources to enhance our protection and reduce our vulnerability to terrorist attacks. [8]

Despite a change in terminology, the Obama Administration has followed this pattern by continuing to increase the policy of aid to other countries to enlist their aid in fighting global terrorism. The “administration also intends to provide $5 billion in assistance through the Shared Security Partnership over the next several years to enhance the ability of our partners to improve their own security and work with us to defeat terrorism worldwide.” [9] All of these constitute a policy extension of powers and authorities through both formal and informal channels to extend the central government’s influence in previously unknown areas, and ergo, are a revival of the state.
In Israel, policy has also been changed to reflect a revival of the state because of the constant threat of terror that the state must deal with. As terror is a greater reality, whose source is already known and identifiable, the policies that have come into being are much more concrete than in the American case. In most cases they are meant to further deter any future terror (whether they accomplish this goal or not is highly suspect).
Taking as a case study the reaction to the terror attacks perpetuated during the Second Intifada, it can be seen that Israel has extended its policies of control by means of harsh reprisal attacks and targeted assassinations, and increased security measures. In response to the uprising and the terror attacks stemming from it, “Sharon had ordered the West Bank to be cut into sixty-four isolated sectors and Gaza into four using trenches, earthen ramparts, and concrete barriers with an estimated 450 checkpoints, barriers, and roadblocks established by the end of 2002. An estimated 680 such obstacles were in place by November 2004.” (Smith 2007, 514-515). In addition, “Israel carried out at least thirty-three politically ordered targeted assassinations in 2001, and thirty-seven in 2002, with forty-three bystanders, including children, also killed.” (Smith 2007, 515)
Another major policy change was the governmental decision to go forward with the construction of a security barrier to limit the ability of terrorists to infiltrate Israel proper. After months of terror attacks, “finally in 2002, the Sharon government began constructing a barrier intended to run the length of the West Bank. Occasionally following the 1967 border, the barrier invades the West Bank in order to incorporate Israeli settlements and to confiscate Palestinian lands for the construction route.” (Smith 2007, 516). All of these policy decisions and actions show a governmental revival as the government unilaterally reasserts its control and attains greater control over newer and older areas of concern in response to terrorist threat.

Following terrorist threats or attacks, states have a tendency to extend their powers and authority in an attempt to reassert themselves in their traditional spheres of influence as well as to attain new areas and methods of control. Here we have examined two countries—the United States and Israel—as examples of democracies (though of different general characteristics) which following terrorist activities have enacted “revivals of state” on the level of two factors: institutions and policy. There are many other factors that could also be considered, however this has been enough to establish a causal link between terrorism and the “revival of the state.”

Constitutional Rights Foundation, “The Patriot Act: What is the Proper Balance Between National Security and Individual Rights?” (Fall 2003), available from
Department of Homeland Security, “National Strategy for Homeland Security,” July 2002, available from
Department of Homeland Security, “Strategic Plan—One Team, One Mission, Securing out Homeland,” taken from
Department of Justice, “Highlights of the USA PATRIOT Act,” available from
Office of the Prime Minister: National Security Council, “Counter Terrorism Bureau,” available from
Office of the Prime Minister: National Security Council, “Foreign Policy Division,” available from
Smith, Charles. Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict: A History with Documents (6th Ed). Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s. 2007.
Smooha, Sammy. “The Model of Ethnic Democracy.” European Centre of Minority Issues, Oct 2001.
Suleiman, Ezra. Dismantling Democratic States. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. 2003.
The White House, “Homeland Security,” available from

[1] Department of Homeland Security, “Strategic Plan—One Team, One Mission, Securing out Homeland,” taken from, accessed 17 Dec 2009.
[2] National Strategy for Homeland Security, July 2002, available from
[3] IBID
[4] Department of Justice, “Highlights of the USA PATRIOT Act,” available from, accessed 17 Dec 2009
[5] Constitutional Rights Foundation, “The Patriot Act: What is the Proper Balance Between National Security and Individual Rights?” (Fall 2003), available from, accessed 20 Dec 2009.
[6] Office of the Prime Minister: National Security Council, “Counter Terrorism Bureau,” available from, accessed 20 Dec 2009.
[7] Office of the Prime Minister: National Security Council, “Foreign Policy Division,” available from, accessed 20 Dec 2009.
[8] George W. Bush, “Introduction to National Strategy for Homeland Security,” July 2002, available from
[9] The White House, “Homeland Security,” available from, accessed 20 Dec 2009.