Features of foreign policy birds: Israeli prime ministers as hawks and doves

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Scholars and policymakers have long used the shorthand of hawks and doves to characterize leader personalities that correspond to a particular political inclination, whereby hawks are considered right-wing and more aggressive in foreign policy, and doves are left-wing and more peaceful. This article posits that a sound discussion of who hawks and doves in foreign policy are requires an engagement with research on political leadership. It promises a less superficial understanding of the dichotomy of hawks and doves, and uses leadership trait analysis to explore hawkish and dovish leaders’ qualities. The article profiles Israel’s prime ministers since the end of the Cold War, where in a high security environment, these words are most often used to describe its domestic and foreign matters and its cooperative and conflictual actions. This article’s findings encourage an unpacking of these commonly used shorthand labels with political leadership approaches. They are also useful to highlight, most notably, the significance of complexity and distrust in understanding hawkish and dovish leaders. Hawks think simpler and are more doubtful of others than doves, this article finds. Future research, the article suggests, will benefit from looking deeper than simple, dichotomous use of this analogy, and exploring ways to operationalize individual-level measurements of hawks and doves in foreign policy.




Kesgin, B. (2020). Features of foreign policy birds: Israeli prime ministers as hawks and doves. Cooperation and Conflict, 55(1), 107–126. https://doi.org/10.1177/0010836719850208

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