America may tout itself as Israel’s strongest and closest ally, but how many Americans honestly know its history?
American readers might be surprised to know that a book has been published recently that chronicles Israel’s political history through the lives of four of its most seminal leaders.
"Be Strong and of Good Courage: How Israel’s Most Important Leaders Shaped Its Destiny," the new book by David Makovsky and Dennis Ross, is to Israeli political science and history what John F. Kennedy’s "Profiles in Courage" is to American politics.
It is by far one of the best books on leadership anywhere, and it gives the reader a firsthand account of Israeli politics crafted by its prime ministers.
Israeli Prime Ministers
The book provides the reader with in-depth profiles of Israeli Prime Ministers David Ben-Gurion, Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin, and Ariel Sharon.
In digesting the chapters on their lives, the reader comes away with a feeling of knowing Israeli political history on a more intimate level, as well as a historical understanding of the office of the prime minister.
Asked the motivation behind writing "Be Strong and Of Good Courage," Makovsky told Newsmax, “we wrote the book because people need to realize how these great leaders made extraordinary decisions, understand their journey, understand their transformation, and how that all impacted their decisions. This book aims to connect people reading it to Israel’s past and how these lessons could apply for both current and future challenges.”
The four prime ministers covered by Makovsky and Ross certainly dealt with monumentally critical issues. But how, one wonders, did they use the institutional power of the office of prime minister to deal with these issues as they arose?
Makovsky explained that “a lot of these decisions were taken by people who were either the founders [of Israel] themselves or were more junior at the time of the founding. They very much thought that the state hung in the balance. The question is whether the further you get from the founding, do the leaders take security for granted, or were the threats greater at an earlier time?”
The co-author believes “it was about people to rise to meet the challenges during extraordinary times. These leaders did not take the existence of Israel for granted.”
When looking for an overarching theme in the lives of four separate leaders, their most significant and universal aspect “was their sense of personal accountability. None of them saw being prime minister for wielding power for power’s sake.
"What unites these leaders was a strong sense of personal responsibility that was the defining element of their character. They felt that when it comes to the tough decisions, you do not pass those on to your successors.”
Undoubtedly, the ground covered by Ross and Makovsky gives the uninitiated purveyor of U.S.-Israeli foreign policy the best glimpse of how Israel overcame crisis after crisis to establish itself in the region as well as the world’s stage to this.
The chronicle is one that every foreign policy afficionado both outside and inside the Beltway ought to pick up — and soon — and give a good read. It is available in hardback, audiobook, ebook, and paperback.
(David Makovsky is the Ziegler Distinguished Fellow in The Washington Institute’s Irwin Levy Family Program on the U.S.-Israel Strategic Relationship and director of the Project on Arab-Israel Relations. He also has a podcast in which he goes into further detail about the history of U.S.-Israeli foreign policy. Ambassador Dennis Ross, a former special assistant to President Barack Obama, is counselor and William Davidson Distinguished Fellow at The Washington Institute.)
Michael Cozzi is a Ph.D candidate at Catholic University in Washington, D.C.
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