Ethos of Conflict in the International Arena: Power Predicts Expression of Threat for Security and Hope for Peace in Speeches of Leaders of Nations in Conflict

Ilana Ushomirsky*, Oded Adomi Leshem, Eran Halperin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Nations mired in prolonged conflict develop and disseminate societal beliefs to address society's needs. These beliefs are also used to garner support in the international arena. Two key beliefs commonly voiced to the international community by leaders of rival parties concern the threats posed to their nation and their nation's aspiration for peace. Not accounting for power differences, so common in international conflicts, current literature asserts that both parties in conflict express these beliefs. However, we suggest that the extent these beliefs are voiced depends on the nations' relative power. Namely, we hypothesize that because of inferior capabilities, low-power nations are likely to mention the threats posed to their security and their eagerness for peace more frequently than high-power nations. To test our hypothesis, we analyzed the entire corpus of speeches made by Israeli and Palestinian representatives speaking at the United Nations General Debate between 1998 and 2020. We found that although representatives from both parties spoke about the threats posed to their security and their eagerness for peace, both beliefs were voiced more frequently by speakers from the low-power party (in this case, Palestinians) than the high-power party (Israelis). Implications for psychological research of nations in conflict are discussed.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1215-1233
Number of pages19
JournalPolitical Psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors. Political Psychology published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of International Society of Political Psychology.


  • asymmetry
  • conflict
  • ethos of conflict
  • leadership
  • threat perceptions

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