Kesgin publishes paper on when leaders make uncharacteristic foreign policy choices

Assistant Professor of Political Science Baris Kesgin’s recent research is based on the premise that when leaders depart from their long-held, publicly known policy positions, one possible explanation is changes in their personality. Kesgin puts this assumption to test in the case of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in August 2005.

A paper by Assistant Professor of Political Science Baris Kesgin, “Uncharacteristic foreign policy behavior: Sharon’s decision to withdraw from Gaza,” has been published in International Area Studies Review (IASR), a quarterly peer-reviewed publication of the Center for International Area Studies at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, Seoul, and the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO).

Baris Kesgin, assistant professor of political science
The paper is based on Kesgin's research into whether changes in personality can explain why political leaders depart from long-held and publicly known policy positions. For his research, Kesgin focused on Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the decision to withdraw from the Gaza Strip in August 2005. 

Middle East observers long believed that Sharon was one of the last Israelis to cede any territory to Palestinians; alas, that became the decision to mark Sharon’s reign as prime minister. The “bulldozer” decided to evacuate the homes he had built. Assuming that Gaza disengagement implied a significant reassessment of Sharon’s previously held policy preferences, Kesgin’s paper asks if Sharon changed.

Kesgin’s analysis tracks the personality traits of Ariel Sharon in the interviews he gave while in the prime minister’s office. Based on multiple profiles of Sharon in different phases of his premiership, Kesgin argues that the Israeli prime minister temporarily became a complex thinker, yet did not change in his distrust or develop empathy to the Palestinians. The paper’s findings suggest that leaders can experience a fundamental but temporary change to implement radically different decisions, and confirm that leaders’ traits are stable over time.

Baris Kesgin is also associate coordinator of the International & Global Studies Program. In his research, he frequently works with Elon’s students. Carly Goldstein '18 assisted in this research.