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Climate Securitization in the Israeli-Palestinian Context: Climate Discourses, Security, and Conflict

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The significance of climate change for Middle Eastern regional security is the subject of a growing academic literature. Much of recent discussion has been concerned with the potential for climate change to act as a 'threat multiplier' that can trigger violent inter-state conflict, societal disorder, or the growth of militant and terrorist forces. However, it is only recently that scholarship has considered the role that the understanding of the meaning of security adopted by state institutions plays in shaping the precise impacts of climate change on Middle Eastern regional politics. In order to address this less widely discussed topic, I utilize a social constructivist variant of the Copenhagen School's 'securitization theory' in an analysis of the public statements and policy documents of actors from the Israeli and Palestinian Authority (PA) governments. I argue that, for the most part, neither state has 'securitized' climate change, i.e. framed the issue as possessing extraordinary threat and urgency. Israel interprets climate change primarily through what I dub a 'technocratic' discourse, with a national security and environmental security discourse being afforded lower priority. The PA, meanwhile, places overwhelming urgency on the threat of Israeli occupation, such that few other issues are afforded security status. Following Wilkinson (2010), I also examine the context of each state's climate change discourses, showing how their respective political structures and broader discourses of the environment and security are key to understanding the significance of climate change to Israeli and Palestinian state institutions. These findings offer an important counterpoint to the threat multiplier thesis, showing how pre-existing conflictual relations among states can in fact reduce the likelihood that state actors will treat climate change as a security threat.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2020

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  • The St Antony's International Review (STAIR) is the only peer-reviewed journal of international affairs at the University of Oxford. Set up by graduate students of St Antony's College in 2005, the Review has carved out a distinctive niche as a cross-disciplinary outlet for research on the most pressing contemporary global issues, providing a forum in which emerging scholars can publish their work alongside established academics and policymakers. Past contributors include Robert O. Keohane, James N. Rosenau, and Alfred Stepan.
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