Begin is a political prisoner in the Soviet Union, charged with counter-revolutionary activity for his role as leader of Polish Betar, the Zionist youth movement. Begin is sentenced to 8 years corrective labor in the notorious Gulag prison system, and is transported north of the Arctic Circle to help build new Russian settlements. Despite the utter hopelessness of his situation, and the incessant taunting of a self-hating Jew and devoted Communist, Garin, Begin refuses to abandon his dream of establishing a Jewish state in the British Mandate of Palestine.
As a result of shifting alliances during World War II, all Poles are granted amnesty and released from Soviet prisons. Begin is freed after one year of forced labor in the Arctic. He joins General Anders' Free Polish Army and travels with them to Palestine, where he is reunited with his beloved wife, Aliza.
In Palestine, Begin presents himself for service to the commanders of the Irgun Zvai Leumi a/k/a "the Etzel" or "IZL." They support his goal of driving the British from Palestine and ask him to be their leader. Begin accepts the command and quickly declares a revolt against British mandatory rule in Palestine. A devastating sabotage campaign follows, including the bombing of English Colonial Tax Offices, which garners the IZL the sympathy of the Jewish populace in Palestine.
As the IZL's popularity grows, so does the suspicion and jealousy of the official Jewish leadership in Palestine, headed by David Ben Gurion.. When rogues assassinate Lord Moyne, the head of the British Colonial office in Cairo, Ben-Gurion launches a campaign to destroy the IZL. One by one, IZL commanders are captured, handed over to the British police, and exiled to East Africa. Only Begin escapes arrest by going "underground," constantly moving and changing identities. Begin commands the IZL from his living room, while he and his devoted wife raise three small children.
The war in Europe ends and England elects a new government, whose policy is to reinforce the restrictions on Jewish immigration to Palestine and forcibly return refugees to their countries of origin. Jews are outraged at this, and Ben Gurion cuts off all cooperation with British authorities, calling for insurrection throughout Palestine.
The Haganah (led by Ben-Gurion) and the IZL stage dramatic sabotage operations that destroy airports and rails, not to mention British officers' clubs. The English respond forcefully. General Barker is dispatched to quash the Jewish revolt. The violence escalates in a series of attacks and counterattacks, which climaxes with the infamous bombing of the King David Hotel. Civil life in Palestine is suspended as the British impose martial law and sentence IZL fighters to the gallows.
The British declare Palestine ungovernable and announce that they will not accept renewal of the mandate. The problem of Palestine is referred to the United Nations. A fact-finding mission is dispatched to meet with Begin. The United Nations votes to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, with Jerusalem as an international city, infuriating the Arabs. As the British troops prepare to evacuate, hostilities break out between Arabs and Jews.
The IZL attacks the Arab village of Dir Yasin, sparking rumors of a massacre. As Arab peasants flee Palestine en masse, Ben Gurion becomes increasingly alarmed about the IZL's growing military power. When the British finally leave Palestine, Arab armies from five neighboring countries invade and full-scale war breaks out. Fortunately, the IZL has acquired a military transport ship, The Altalena, loaded with heavy weapons and one thousand Jewish fighting men. But the Altalena, arrives in Israel during a truce, in violation of the UN-imposed ceasefire . A disagreement between Begin and the commanders of the newly-formed Israel Defense Forces quickly escalates into a gun battle that leaves 16 IZL men dead and the Altalena utterly destroyed.
Menachem Begin is elected to the Israeli Knesset where he sits in opposition to David Ben Gurion's Labor government for the next 24 years before becoming Prime Minister of Israel. Begin founded the Israeli Likud Party, ordered the bombing of the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq, and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for signing the famous Egypt-Israel peace treaty.