Peace Initiatives and Public Opinion: The Domestic Context of Conflict Resolution

Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Mor, Ben D. (1997) Peace Initiatives and Public Opinion: The Domestic Context of Conflict Resolution, Journal of Peace Research 34(2): 187–215.

Peace initiatives to resolve enduring rivalries are launched in a two-level setting, where foreign policy imperatives interact with domestic imperatives. Public opinion, the support and mobilization of which is required for sustaining an extended conflict, plays a critical role in its resolution, especially when government preferences diverge from majority opinion. This article uses the war-proneness literature to define the domestic context in which public opinion becomes a constraint on accommodation or a trigger for it. In each context, the government must weigh the benefits of pursuing its preferred course of action against the prospects of losing office as a result of public dissatisfaction. This dilemma involves three parameters: the conflict-related beliefs of the leadership, its sensitivity to public opinion, and the structure of public opinion. The values that these parameters assume, and their configuration, comprise the domestic conditions that govern leadership decisions on peace initiatives. A case study of Israeli decision-making on the 1993 Oslo Accord serves to demonstrate the applicability and plausibility of the theoretical analysis.