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Itamar Rabinovich’s Biography of Yitzhak Rabin Wins Top Prize in Institute Book Competition


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Books on President Eisenhower and Iran's IRGC also Cited

Washington, D.C. – Itamar Rabinovich's Yitzhak Rabin: Soldier, Leader, Statesman was awarded the gold medal in The Washington Institute's 2017 Book Prize competition, the Middle East policy think tank announced today. Rabinovich, an accomplished historian who served formerly as president of Tel Aviv University and Israeli ambassador to the United States, will receive the award and an accompanying $25,000 prize.

The year 2017 marks the tenth anniversary of the Book Prize, which honors outstanding scholarship on the Middle East in the English language. “The Washington Institute Book Prize has always highlighted books that both illuminate the Middle East for an American audience and provide practical insights for policymakers,” said Institute Executive Director Robert Satloff, the Howard P. Berkowitz Chair in U.S. Middle East Policy. “It is fitting that Ambassador Rabinovich, a man who is both a scholar and a diplomat, receives the gold prize for this outstanding work.”

In its gold prize commendation, the judges wrote: “Rabinovich, a distinguished historian, rescues Rabin from the many self-serving legends of Rabin. His is an unfailingly accurate portrait that draws upon new documents, but also distills four years of personal observation: The author served as Rabin’s ambassador in Washington. Rare insights abound in this admiring but acute telling of Rabin’s unlikely journey from hawkish soldier to world statesman. While the peace Rabin sought remains elusive, not so Rabin, whose puzzle has been solved by Israel’s leading scholar-witness.” Yitzhak Rabin: Soldier, Leader, Statesman is published by Yale University Press.

Michael Doran, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, was awarded the silver medal, with its $10,000 prize, for Ike's Gamble: America's Rise to Dominance in the Middle East, published by Simon and Schuster. The judges wrote: “In this riveting revisiting of the 1956 Suez crisis and its aftermath, Doran traces the genesis of an enduring flaw in U.S. policy toward the Middle East: the urge to appease nationalism, in the hope of taming it. Doran, a historian and sometimes practitioner, deftly unwinds the prejudices that led Eisenhower’s policy team to coddle Egypt’s Nasser, until Ike finally awakened to the folly of it. Then it was Nasser’s Egypt, later it would be Saddam’s Iraq and Islamist Iran. Doran’s is a timely reminder of a lesson never fully learned.” Doran served in the George W. Bush administration as a National Security Council aide on Middle East issues and as deputy assistant secretary of defense.

The jurors presented the bronze prize, worth $5,000, to Afshon Ostovar, an assistant professor at the Naval Postgraduate School, for his Vanguard of the Imam: Religion, Politics, and Iran's Revolutionary Guards (Oxford University Press). The judges wrote: "Afshan Ostovar’s Vanguard of the Imam: Religion, Politics, and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards is the first comprehensive history of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in English. Ostover, a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, masterfully marshals information from a wide variety of sources, including Iranian publications. He traces how the IRGC evolved from a rag-tag militia established in the midst of revolutionary upheaval into a formidable military. Ostovar explores the IRGC’s covert capabilities, from supporting terror to establishing client armies in their own image, which have extended Iran’s strategic footprint. He analyzes how the relationship between the IRGC and Iran’s clerical rulers underpins the regime’s hold on power. Ostovar shows that the IRGC is not ten-feet tall: It faces serious challenges, including the shifting values of the Iranian people.”

The Book Prize has been generously supported since its inception by Washington Institute Trustees Shelly and Michael Kassen. “We are proud to have honored so many worthy books that have contributed to America’s understanding of the region,” the Kassens said. Shelly Kassen was elected president of the Institute in 2016.

Recent gold prize winners have included: The Rise of the Israeli Right: From Odessa to Hebron, by Colin Shindler (2016), Anonymous Soldiers: The Struggle for Israel, 1917-1947, by Bruce Hoffman (2015), America's Great Game: The CIA's Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East, by Hugh Wilford (2014) and The Twilight War: The Secret History of America's Thirty-Year Conflict with Iran by David Crist (2013). (View a complete list of previous honorees.) 

About the Washington Institute: The Washington Institute is an independent, nonpartisan research institution funded exclusively by U.S. citizens that seeks to advance a balanced and realistic understanding of American interests in the Middle East and to promote the policies that secure them. Drawing on the research of its fellows and the experience of its policy practitioners, the Institute promotes informed debate and scholarly research on U.S. policy in the region.

Media Contact: Ian Byrne, 202-452-0650, email.