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Policy Analysis


Be Strong and of Good Courage How Israel’s Most Important Leaders Shaped Its Destiny

Dennis Ross and David Makovsky

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September 2019

Modern Israel's founding fathers provided some of the boldest and most principled leadership of any nation. Now Israel needs their example more than ever.

At a time when the political destiny of Israel is more uncertain than at any moment since its modern founding, Be Strong and of Good Courage celebrates the defining generation of leaders who took on the task of safeguarding the country's future.

David Ben-Gurion, Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin, and Ariel Sharon were all present at the creation of the new nation in 1948. Over the next sixty years, each experienced moments when the country's existence was directly imperiled. In those moments, extraordinary acts of leadership and strategic judgment to secure its future were needed, and these leaders rose to the occasion. The strength they showed allowed them to prevail.

Today, Israel may be on the verge of sacrificing the essential character that its greatest citizens fought to secure. This is the story of that epic struggle.

Watch the book launch event, featuring a conversation with the authors and Dalia Rabin and Gilad Sharon.

Advance praise for Be Strong and of Good Courage

“For those of us who care deeply about Israel and the US-Israel relationship, Ross and Makovsky have done a real service.  As Israel's leaders face a fateful choice about the future of the state and preserving its character, they tell the story of Ben-Gurion, Begin, Rabin and Sharon.  It is a story that can provide guidance for today's leaders in Israel and for all of us on the meaning of leadership.” —Hillary Rodham Clinton, 67th U.S. Secretary of State

“A powerful statement on the style and principles of leadership that are critical for shaping the Middle East peace process.” —Henry Kissinger, 56th U.S. Secretary of State, 8th U.S. National Security Advisor

“Solid historical guidance for policymakers and students of the Israeli-Palestinian conundrum.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Be Strong and of Good Courage is of great importance for several reasons: understanding the most intimate decision-making process of our leaders during pivotal points; realizing the enormous and courageous struggle to find ways to resolve the Israeli-Arab conflict; learning how Israeli leaders were able to break some of their core and basic ideals to find ways for Israel be accepted; and gaining insights for Israel’s future monumental decision that must be taken.” —Gadi Eisenkot, 21st Chief of General Staff of the Israel Defense Forces

“A brilliant study of the role of moral courage in politics, as exemplified by four of Israel's boldest prime ministers, and a passionate plea for similar courage in Israel today. An important work.” —Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Former Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth

“An astute understanding of the policies of real leaders along with insights based on many meetings and close observation provide an important learning experience for readers of Be Strong and of Good Courage.” —George Shultz, 60th U.S. Secretary of State

“This book is a wake-up call to the most difficult decision that the State of Israel has faced since its establishment: preserving a Jewish and democratic identity or losing it. This is not a question of if it happens but when. The authors clearly point out the great courage required of Israeli leaders to assume responsibility, put Israel's future first and lead the public to address this challenge before Israel passes the point of no return from a binational state.” —Maj. General (Ret.) Amir Eshel, Israel Air Force Commander 2012-2017

About the Authors

Dennis Ross is an American diplomat and author. He has served under President George H. W. Bush, President Bill Clinton, and President Barack Obama. His most recent book is Doomed to Succeed: The U.S.-Israel Relationship from Truman to Obama.

David Makovsky is the Ziegler distinguished fellow at The Washington Institute and director of the Project on Arab-Israel Relations who has served as a senior advisor in the Obama Administration’s Office of the Secretary of State. This is his third book.