In This Review

Be Strong and of Good Courage: How Israel’s Most Important Leaders Shaped Its Destiny
Be Strong and of Good Courage: How Israel’s Most Important Leaders Shaped Its Destiny
By Dennis Ross and David Makovsky
PublicAffairs, 2019, 384 pp.

The authors, both well-known experts on Arab-Israeli affairs, present an important book in two parts. The first consists of biographical sketches of four Israeli leaders who all made momentous decisions affecting Israel’s relations with its Arab adversaries: David Ben-Gurion, who announced the birth of Israel in 1948, immediately precipitating a war with its Arab neighbors; Menachem Begin, who promoted unilateral peace with Egypt in 1977, giving up the Sinai Desert in the process; Yitzhak Rabin, who embraced the Oslo peace process; and Ariel Sharon, who unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005. These four leaders were committed to a two-state solution, which Ross and Makovsky emphatically endorse, an outcome that would avoid the creation of a binational state in which a third or more of the population would be Palestinian. In the more intriguing, second part of the book, the authors lay out the arguments for and against the notion that Israel is endangered by an internal Arab demographic “time bomb.” The authors believe that the growth of the Palestinian population is a long-term threat to Israel’s democratic system. They also offer suggestions for what Israel could do unilaterally to move toward a two-state solution—and how Washington could support such actions. The authors should have spent more time on these policy choices and less on the biographies.