The Iron Wall Revisited
More than a decade after the publication of his acclaimed The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World, Avi Shlaim returns to Ze'ev Jabotinsky's theory as a framework for understanding Israel's Arab policies, this time focusing on the post-1967 period. The author revisits the theory's formulation by the leader of Revisionist Zionism in 1923 and its near total convergence with the (unacknowledged) strategy followed by Labor Zionism. Examining each Israeli government since 1967, he shows that all zealously followed stage one of Jabotinsky's strategy (constructing an “iron wall” of unassailable military strength) but that the lesser known stage two (serious negotiations with the Palestinians after being compelled by stage one to abandon all hope of prevailing over Zionism) has been completely ignored except by Yitzhak Rabin. Indeed, the recent periods have witnessed a full-blown return to the iron wall at its starkest, with increasing resort to violence and unilateralism.
Avi Shlaim is a professor of International Relations at St. Antony’s College, Oxford, and the author of a number of books, including Collusion across the Jordan: King Abdullah, the Zionist Movement and the Partition of Palestine. He would like to thank Linda Butler, Gwyn Daniel, Roger Louis, and Gabriel Piterberg for their valuable comments on an earlier draft of this article.