Does combat experience foster hardliner approaches to conflict, diminishing the likelihood of reconciliation? We exploit the assignment of health rankings determining combat eligibility in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to examine the effect of combat exposure on support for peaceful resolution of conflict. Given the centrality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to global affairs, and with no resolution to the conflict currently in sight, the question of the political consequences of combat becomes all the more pressing. We find that exposure to combat hardens attitudes towards the rival and reduces support for negotiation and compromise. Importantly, these attitudes translate directly into voting behavior, such that combatants are more likely to vote for hardliner parties. These findings cast doubt on research highlighting the benign effects of combat and underscore the importance of combatant reintegration for the transition from conflict to peace.
Year: 2013 HiCN Working Paper No. 161