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Amos Perlmutter Memorial Lecture: Dennis Ross and David Makovsky

By: Pamela Fitzsimons

Dennis Ross, diplomat, and David Makovsky, Ziegler distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute discussed their new book, ‘Be Strong and of Good Courage’ in the Constitution Hall at American University, with Professor Saul Newman, the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education, and Professor Michael Brenner, Seymour and Lillian Abensohn Chair in Israel Studies. Their book examines the administrations of four former Israeli leaders, David Ben-Gurion, Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin and Ariel Sharon. Ross and Makovsky discuss each of their abilities to maintain the security of the state of Israel throughout their political reigns through various challenges they faced within the Middle Eastern geo-political space that were instrumental in Israeli history, from its formation in 1948 to the present day.

Makovsky attributed the survival of the Israeli state during its formation to the social and political policies of the ‘mission centric’ David Ben-Gurion. His successes in overcoming threats to Israeli sovereignty include the proclamation of the Israeli state, with the subsequent 1948 Arab-Israeli war. Both Makovsky and Ross credited Ben-Gurion's ability to make decisions that clashed with his political ideology and the survival of Israel during its formation.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was acknowledged by Ross and Makovsky with his decision making that often went ‘against the mainstream of previous political thinking.’ An example of this was his engagement in peace negotiations with former chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization Yasser Arafat at the Oslo Accord in 1993, which was the starting point of negotiations concerning their future relations. Makovsky described Rabin’s actions at Oslo as ‘ones of a Prime Minister, not a civilian.’

Menachem Begin’s political courageousness was demonstrated by his engagement in numerous conflicts that posed a threat to the Israeli state, including the 1982 Lebanon War and the Lebanese Civil War. Ross additionally credited Begin’s actions at Camp David with former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat on the 17th September 1978, which ultimately resulted in the signing of the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty, and one less threat to Israel in the Middle Eastern region.

The courageousness possessed by each of the four leaders discussed is undoubtedly an influential factor in the formation and survival of Israel as a thriving global state.

My name is Pamela Fitzsimons and I am a freshman from Dublin, Ireland. I am double-majoring in International Studies and Russian Studies. My hobbies include writing, reading and learning languages. I am interested in learning more about Israeli politics and the Hebrew language.

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