A Checkpoint Effect? Evidence from a Natural Experiment on Travel Restrictions in the West Bank


  • The authors would like to acknowledge the invaluable assistance garnered throughout the drafting of this article. First and foremost we thank Donald P. Green of the Institute for Social and Policy Studies and Ian Shapiro of the Macmillan Center at Yale University for their extremely generous assistance, without which this project never would have been possible. This research was further made possible by a grant from the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health (RO1MH073687). We are especially grateful to Steven E. Hobfoll for his generosity in providing additional data. We also thank Jamil Rabah, director of Near East Consulting, for enabling our research in the West Bank, and the numerous friends and colleagues who have helped along the way, including Christopher Blattman, Ana De La O, Stathis Kalyvas, Yehezkel Lein, Ellen Lust, Stacey Maples, Alex Mintz, David Nickerson, Vladimir Pran, Aviad Rubin, Nicholas Sambanis, James C. Scott, Ron Shatzberg, Tim Williams, and Elisabeth Wood, as well as participants in the Yale Comparative Politics Workshop and the annual meetings of the International Society of Political Psychology (July 2011) and the American Political Science Association (September 2011). Replication data are available from the AJPS Data Archive on Dataverse (http://dvn.iq.harvard.edu/dvn/dv/ajps).


Does nonviolent repression prompt subject groups to obey or rebel? By what mechanism does it do so? To address these questions, we exploit a natural experiment based on a 2009 policy toward the “easement” of checkpoints—nonviolent impediments to movement—in the West Bank. We sample populations across 17 villages (n = 599), beside one checkpoint slated for easement (treatment) and one that will undergo no change (control), before and after the intervention. We then pursue difference-in-difference estimation. This design is experimental, as easement was orthogonal to Palestinian attitudes; for robustness, we test our findings against an independent panel (n = 1,200). We find that easement makes subject populations less likely to support violence; we suggest humiliation as the mechanism bridging nonviolent repression with militancy. This warrants rethinking Israeli security policy, as short-term concerns over Palestinian mobility may be compromising Israel's long-term interests. By extension, checkpoint easement may positively affect peace negotiations.