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The Political Psychology of Israeli Prime Ministers: When Hard-Liners Opt for Peace, Yael S. Aronoff

Reviewed by Jeffrey D. Berejikian



Why do some foreign policy hawks evolve into doves? This is the central question motivating Yael S. Aronoff’s examination of six Israeli prime ministers. While scholars have spent considerable energy focusing on why leaders opt for conflict, we know less about why hard-liners undergo a transformation that leads them to pursue negotiations in good faith. To address this question, Aronoff constructs a typology of decision making that combines relevant aspects of a leader’s political ideology with cognitive traits. The result is a detailed framework that effectively explains why Ehud Barak, Yitzhak Rabin, and Shimon Peres evolved from security hawks into forceful advocates for peace, while Yitzhak Shamir, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Ariel Sharon remained ardently against negations throughout their political careers.

The analysis presents a compelling set of political biographies focusing on foreign policy deliberations. Readers get an insider’s look into how these leaders thought about their decisions as well as a detailed historical account of the important shifts in Israeli policy over the decades. The research is impressively sourced. Unlike some psychological analyses that attempt to construct leadership profiles from afar, Aronoff builds her analysis on interviews with a broad array of senior policy advisers and cabinet officials conducted over

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