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, Israel. It was named in memory of Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat (BEgin-SAdat), whose groundbreaking Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty laid the cornerstone for conflict resolution in the Middle East.

Over the past 24 years, the Center has produced some 750 original research and policy papers as well as 25 books. It has conducted more than 600 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 for announcing his historic acceptance of the two-state solution.