The Center was founded in 1993 by Dr. Thomas O. Hecht, a Canadian Jewish community leader, as a non-partisan and independent institute affiliated with the political science department at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel. It was named in memory of Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat (BEgin-SAdat), whose efforts in pursuing peace lay the cornerstone for conflict resolution in the Middle East.

Over the past 20 years, the think-tank has produced over 250 original research and policy papers and 25 books. It has conducted more than 500 symposia and international conferences -- for defense, military industry, and intelligence and foreign policy specialists, as well as diplomats, businesspeople, academics and politicians.

On June 14, 2009, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu chose the BESA Center podium as the venue from which to elucidate his key diplomatic policies.