Cohesion during military operations: A field study on combat units in the Al-Aqsa Intifada

Uzi Ben-Shalom, Zeev Lehrer, Eyal Ben-Ari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


Military leaders and social scientists often regard unit cohesion as the key element in combat motivation and fighting resilience. However, a close look at today's battlefield calls for rethinking this assumption. This study is based on observations of combat units during the current Arab-Israeli conflict (the "Al-Aqsa Intifada"). In contrast to the usual depiction found in the scholarly literature, these units were characterized by some rather unique features. Instead of socially cohesive structures (based upon mutual, continuous, and common experiences), the action of these combat units during operations is based upon temporary frameworks based on short-term, ad hoc, and diverse components. In general, the components comprising these ad hoc frameworks do not have a common background and do not belong to the same organizational arms of the Israeli military. Nevertheless, the fighting power of the emergent amalgamations has not been diminished or damaged. Our study depicts several possible explanations for the social dynamics of such "instant units" and focuses on the importance of "swift trust" to their functioning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-79
Number of pages17
JournalArmed Forces and Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Cohesion
  • Combat effectiveness
  • Combat motivation
  • Military sociology
  • Swift trust


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