Perceived to slack: secondary securitization and multilateral treaty ratification in Israel

Eyal Rubinson, Tal Sadeh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study emphasizes the place that cognitive processes rather than objective concerns have in ratification of multilateral treaties. We argue that secondary securitization by non-security experts hinders treaty ratification. When security is at stake, the potential costs of undesired action by the treaty’s IO are deemed higher, risk-aversion increases, and asymmetry among the member states’ policy perceptions is greater. Thus, our secondary securitization model improves over existing explanations of multilateral treaty ratification by assuming that national selfishness drives treaty (non)ratification, but not necessarily in a rational way. We support our argument with survival analysis regarding the ratification process in Israel of 243 treaties, based on documents retrieved from official archives, and controlling for a variety of competing explanations. We break securitization into objective and subjective components and correct for the possibility of undocumented acts of securitization. Our results are robust to all this. We follow with discourse and content analysis of official discussions of three human rights treaties (ICCPR, ICESCR, and CEDAW). We innovate theoretically by distinguishing secondary from primary securitization, and by combining Securitization and Principal-Agent theories. We believe our results travel well for other countries in which security concerns overshadow aspect of civilian life, and IOs are regarded with suspicion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1016-1042
Number of pages27
JournalInternational Interactions
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Israel
  • Securitization
  • multilateralism
  • principal-agent


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