Psychological histories piece together the characters of great historical personalities, looking into their very natures to find motivations and feelings, desires, and points of view. This task is especially difficult because most often the author has never met the subject, never had the opportunity to look into their eyes and ask them questions. This is the challenge of psychological histories.
Yael S. Aronoff has written a fascinating psychological history of Israel’s prime ministers, all of whom were and are larger than life and, at the same time, so very human. This insightful new book describes what made six of these prime ministers tick. The subtitle of the book reveals Aronoff’s intentions and her theme: “When Hardliners Opt for Peace.”
Aronoff suggests that the image of the enemy changed over and over again throughout the years, as each new prime minister was elected. Each leader perceived the Arabs and the Palestinians differently, and so the image of the enemy was changed in order to accommodate each prime minister’s political reality and the needs of the moment.
Aronoff argues that prime ministers are sensitive to the public opinions of the voters, and that sensitivity becomes a major factor in a prime minister’s decision-making process; even prime ministers thought to be ideologues are shaped by moments and events, as well as by pressure from the United States and from their own parties.
Aronoff shows how tensions emerge between a prime minister’s thoughts and feelings, and how a prime minister’s leadership and stewardship are shaped based on influences that emerge while in office. This book is an excellent contribution to the corpus of books that can help us understand Israel and the Middle East. Aronoff provides perceptive insights into six major figures who helped shape this region.