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

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A growing academic literature in international relations examines the significance of climate change towards security in the Middle East, in particular its potential to act as a 'threat multiplier' that can trigger violent conflict. While there is a growing recognition that such research must account for the role of socio-political context in mediating the effects of climate change and shaping their significance for the politics of the region, it is only recently that analysis has considered the role of state actors' understanding of the meaning of security and the effects this has on their responses to climate change. I respond to this gap by adopting a social constructivist variant of the 'securitization theory' of the Copenhagen School of security studies and applying it to an analysis of the public statements and policy documents of actors from the Israeli and Palestinian Authority (PA) governments. Neither country, I argue, has 'securitized' climate change; in other words, framing the issue as one of extraordinary threat and urgency, as Israel interprets climate change primarily through a 'technocratic' framing, and the PA affords such enormous priority to the Israeli occupation such that few other issues are afforded security status. I show furthermore how Israeli and Palestinian discourses of climate change are best understood in the context of the political structures and the broader discourses of the environment and security in each country. These findings offer an important counterpoint to the threat multiplier thesis, showing how contextual features, most notably in this case pre-existing conflict relations among states, can actually reduce the priority that both parties will attach to climate change.
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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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