Cohen, Amichai, and Tal Mimran. Cost without Benefit: A Reexamination of Israel’s Home Demolition Policy, Policy Studies 112. Jerusalem: Israel Democracy Institute, 2015 (in Hebrew).
Under a policy that was in force from 1967 until 2005, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) demolished the homes of the perpetrators of terrorist acts and various security offenses, as well as their accomplices. In 2005, a commission of experts, headed by Maj. Gen. Ehud Shani, expressed its doubts as to the policy’s legality and efficacy and recommended that it be abandoned. Notwithstanding, the home demolition policy was revived three years later, in 2008.
The demolition of homes is an extreme measure. The arguments against it include that it is a disproportional infringement of private property rights, constitutes collective punishment, and that there are no evident gains that can justify its use. Nevertheless, over the years, decision-makers in the IDF insisted that the deterrent effect outweighs other considerations and justifies the infringement of rights. The Supreme Court of Israel, almost without exception, has given its full backing to that position. The underlying assumption about the deterrent effect of home demolition is based on the intensity of the sanction against the terrorist and his family as well as the rapidity with which it is implemented.
This study is a three-part examination of how the IDF reached the conclusion that home demolition is an effective policy and employed it for so many years without ever conducting an empirical study. We also consider what caused the decision-makers to revive the policy only three years after it was decided to abandon it.