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Applying Game Theory to the Israel-Palestine War

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Harvey Mudd College
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In the recent times, conflicts which happen between concerned persons in various projects are quite ordinary. Therefore, a decision-making method which is useful ought to be put into consideration for a superior resolution. The approach of game theory can be used as a helpful structure for making decisions concerning some conflicts and problems in cases such as construction or our case, the Israel-Palestine War. This essay shows how the irrational behavior in the Israel- Palestine War could get explained by the rational analysis of game theory (Colman, p.77).

Game Theory

Game theory is the study of cooperation and human conflict that takes place in a competitive situation. Also, it is the optimal decision-making of competing and independent actors in strategic setting or the science of strategy. Economist Oskar Morgenstern and mathematicians John Nash and John von Neumann are the original pioneers of game theory. Also, this approach needs knowledge of details such as; identities of independent actors, what they know, the strategic acts they can use, their preferences and how their particular decisions influence outcomes of a game.

Nash Equilibrium

Nash Equilibrium is a game theory concept where the ideal result of a game occurs where no player has an incentive to diverge from their chosen strategy after the consideration of the choice their opponent is making. A person receives no incremental advantage from assuming various players remain constant in their strategy and changing actions. A single game may have many Nash Equilibria or none completely (Barough, et al., p. 1588).

The Prisoners Dilemma

The prisoners dilemma is a paradox that gets used in the decision analysis that two persons who tend to act in their self-interests follow through a course of action which does not result in an outcome that is ideal. The prisoners dilemma which is considered typical gets set up in such a way that both parties or groups tend to protect themselves at the expense of many counterparts. Consequently, while in pursuit of the logical process of thought, the involved participants find themselves in a state that is worse than if they had collaborated with one another in the process of decision making. Simply put, the prisoners dilemma states that interests that are personal seem more desirable, however, severally results in worse results especially if both parties act in their self-interests (Mintz, p.8).

The prisoners dilemma got initially proposed in 1951 by Merill Flood. Here, two suspects get captured by the law enforcement who suspect that they control a crime although they lack enough evidence to prove this fact in court. The criminals are put in different cells where they cannot communicate, whereby, if neither of them admits to their crime, they both get imprisoned for a year, and if they confess, they get jailed for five years. On the other hand, if one of them agrees to the crime, he/she is forgiven and the counterpart imprisoned for a decade.

When it comes to the Israel- Palestine War, first, we consider that:

Palestine and Israel have been neighbors forever.

Is their equality among the involved parties?

Is it a tit-for-tat case?

Previous history (Berrebi, Claude, and Esteban, p. 903)

Despite what the prime minister of Israel says, their conflict with the Palestinians cannot fundamentally be managed. Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, has sought to normalize life. Despite the Middle East going up in flames, Israel has survived, for instance, cafes that had been made empty by suicide bombers nearly ten years ago are now full again. Demonstrators in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem have made protests not just about peace and war but also concerning the prices of cottage cheese. It is typically currently under threats and both the Palestinians leader on West Bank, Abbas Mahmoud and Netanyahu are mistaken to think that these future conflicts can be talked through. In reality, a stand-off is usually liable to tipping into violence, and long-lasting peace will be found when both parties reach a comprehensive settlement.

How do game theorists account for this malicious absurdity concerning the Israel- Palestine War?

i. The seeming irrationality of human nature.

Individuals are usually driven by their emotions pride, vengeance- to do things which are not essentially their concern. Then they fall downwards into spirals of common vengeance.

ii. Diverging interests between leaders and their people.

During a war, even those who are on the winning side die, so, to some extent, in wars, it can be a lose-lose situation. The winning political leader, however, does not die, so from their point of view, the conflicts seem purely zero-sum because when the war is over, one leader wins while the other one gets disgraced. In the case, Israel- Palestine War both Ariel Sharon and Yasser Arafat seem to want this approach to annihilate or conquer the other one (Gelvin, p.11).

iii. Lack of trust.

Unless these involved parties trust each other, they cannot get a win-win outcome, and this is not the case when it comes to the Middle East. The Palestinians feel that all temporary measures get considered to allow for the construction of more settlements by the Israelis in the West Bank while the Israelis think that any businesses that may be underway would be received by more bombings (Berrebi, Claude, and Esteban, p. 922).

iv. Intensifying war as negotiating.

There are two ways to bargain or negotiate. You can raise costs to the other individual so that you cannot make a deal with them or you can convince them of the alternatives you have to deal. In exchanging violence, maybe the Israelis and the Palestinians are raising costs to each other before settling to a deal (Shehadeh, p.97).

By use of the game theory;

If the Israelis engage in Acts of Aggression and their counterparts Follow the Peace Plan then the Palestinians get zero points, and the Israelis receive ten points.

If the Israelis Follow the Peace Plan and the Palestines get involved in Acts of Aggression, the Israelis will, therefore, receive zero points and the Palestinians receive ten points.

If both the Palestinians and the Israelis Follow the Peace Plan, then they both get five points.

If both of them engage in Acts of Aggression, they get the point each.


From the results we have got, if both the Palestinians and the Israeli follow the most suitable strategy, they will both continuously Follow the Peace Plan despite any anger or hate they have against one another. Also, in this case, most of the involved individuals would instead portray vengeance despite the minimized benefits of such actions. In this theory, peace is supposed to be mutually beneficial to both the Palestinians and the Israelis, for instance, if they share territories, it will result in more significant development in their economies and reduced attacks by terrorists. The use of prisoners dilemma, Nash equilibria, and game theory gets simplified to the extent that suggestions are made to advocate the believes that all non-states or states actors in international politics are rational beings.


Work Cited

Barough, AzinShakiba, MojtabaValinejad Shoubi, and MoohammadJavad EmamiSkardi. "Application of game theory approach in solving the construction project conflicts." Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences 58 (2012): 1586-1593.

Berrebi, Claude, and Esteban F. Klor. "On terrorism and electoral outcomes: Theory and evidence from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." Journal of Conflict Resolution 50.6 (2006): 899-925.

Colman, Andrew M. Game theory and experimental games: The study of strategic interaction. Elsevier, 2016.

Gelvin, James L. The Israel-Palestine conflict: One hundred years of war. Cambridge University Press, 2014.

Mintz, Alex. "How do leaders make decisions? A poliheuristic perspective." Journal of conflict resolution 48.1 (2004): 3-13.

Shehadeh, Raja. Language of War, Language of Peace: Palestine, Israel and the Search for Justice. Profile Books, 2015.


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