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Yael Aronoff

Yael  Aronoff
  • Professor
  • Faculty


Yael Aronoff [Ph.D. PLS, Columbia U.] is a Professor of Political Science/International Relations at James Madison College at MSU. She is also the Director of the Michael and Elaine Serling Institute for Jewish Studies and Modern Israel and is the Serling Chair of Israel Studies at MSU. Dr. Aronoff has served as the President of the Association of Israel Studies from 2019-2021. She is a recipient of the MSU 2011 Teacher-Scholar Award and the 2015 MSU John K. Hudzik Emerging Leader in Advancing International Studies and Programs Award. Dr. Aronoff is interested in research and teaching regarding Israeli politics, cultures, and society, as well as foreign policy.

Dr. Aronoff’s research explores the conditions under which wars end and a process towards peace is achieved. Her research includes attention to the role of leaders in obstructing or initiating the end of enduring conflict through political means and the role of both political psychology and political culture in influencing leaders to be more or less accommodating and to engage in significant political change. The main question posed in the first book The Political Psychology of Israeli Prime Ministers: When Hard-Liners Opt for Peace (Cambridge University Press 2014), surrounds the kinds of personality traits and ideological components that make leaders more or less likely to change their policy preferences. It compares and contrasts six Israeli prime ministers and their decision-making on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Dr. Aronoff’s co-edited book, Continuity and Change in Political Culture: Israel and Beyond with Ilan Peleg and Saliba Sarsar, (Lexington Books 2020) explores from a variety of perspectives the role of political culture in questions of national identity, conflict, institution-building, and legitimacy. Ten leading scholars in political science, anthropology, Israeli studies, and Middle East affairs address the theme of continuity and change in political culture as a tribute to Professor Myron (Mike) J. Aronoff, whose work on political culture has built conceptual and methodological bridges between political science and anthropology. Yael Aronoff co-authored the introduction and also contributed to the chapter “Pathways to Peace: Legitimation of a Two-State Solution.” Her research, like her teaching, is grounded in political science, but multidisciplinary in scope. In Dr. Aronoff’s first book, she uses psychological theories and assumptions to inform political science and international relations as well as aspects of political culture. The second edited book includes political scientists, anthropologists, area specialists, and practitioners. Her other recent publications include “The Zionist Center-Left Opposition to the Netanyahu Governments,” in Israel Under Netanyahu: Domestic Politics and Foreign Affairs, ed. Robert Freedman, Routledge, 2019 and “Israeli Prime Ministers: Transforming the Victimhood Discourse,” in The Victimhood Discourse in Contemporary Israel, Ed. Ilan Peleg. Roman & Littlefield, 2019. Dr. Aronoff’s current book project, The Dilemmas of Asymmetric Conflicts: Navigating Deterrence and Democratic Constraints, focuses primarily on the experiences of Israel and of the United States, and explores the tensions faced by democracies fighting long-standing asymmetric wars, as they juggle traditional military doctrines with the restraint needed to maintain domestic and international legitimacy as well as uphold international humanitarian law. Dr. Aronoff has published in Foreign Policy, Israel Studies, Israel Studies Review, Israel Studies Forum, and Political Science Quarterly. She was book review editor for Israel Studies Review, serves on the editorial board of Israel Studies, serves on the board of the Israel Institute, and has served on the Board of Directors of the Association of Israel Studies for the past ten years. She has given over 100 public lectures and provides lectures as part of the Association of Jewish Studies Distinguished Lectureship Program as well as for the Association of Israel Studies Distinguished Lectureship Program.

At James Madison College, Dr. Aronoff teaches MC220, “International Relations I: World Politics and International Security,”  MC335 “Israeli Politics, Cultures, and Society,” MC324a, “Regional Politics, Cooperation, and Conflict in the Middle East,” MC326 “U.S. Foreign Policy,” and MC492 senior seminars which have focused on “Israeli Foreign Policy,” “The Dilemmas of Asymmetric Wars,” and “Leadership, Political Psychology, and Foreign Policy.” Professor Aronoff led the MSU Serling Institute Summer Program at Hebrew University’s Rothberg School in Jerusalem in 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2017 and co-led the JMC study abroad in Brussels program in 2014.