Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu born 21 October 1949) is the current Prime Minister of Israel. Netanyahu also currently serves as a member of the Knesset and Chairman of the Likud party.
Born in Tel Aviv, Israel, to secular Jewish parents, Netanyahu is the first Israeli prime minister born in Israel after theestablishment of the state.
Netanyahu joined the Israel Defense Forces shortly after the Six-Day War in 1967, and became a team leader in theSayeret Matkal special forces unit. Netanyahu took part in many missions, including Operation Inferno (1968),Operation Gift (1968) and Operation Isotope (1972), during which he was shot in the shoulder. Netanyahu fought on the front lines in the War of Attrition and the Yom Kippur War in 1973, taking part in special forces raids along the Suez Canal, and then leading a commando assault deep into Syrian territory. Netanyahu achieved the rank of captainbefore being discharged.
After graduating from MIT with Bachelor of Science (SB) and Master of Science (SM) degrees, Netanyahu was recruited as an economic consultant for the Boston Consulting Group. Netanyahu returned to Israel in 1978 to found the Yonatan Netanyahu Anti-Terror Institute, named after his brother Yonatan Netanyahu, who died leading Operation Entebbe. Netanyahu served as the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations from 1984 to 1988.
Netanyahu became the leader of Likud in 1993. Netanyahu won the 1996 elections, becoming Israel's youngest ever Prime Minister, serving his first term from June 1996 to July 1999. Netanyahu moved from the political arena to the private sector after being defeated in the 1999 election for prime minister by Ehud Barak. Netanyahu returned to politics in 2002 as Foreign Affairs Minister (2002–03) and Finance Minister (2003–05) in Ariel Sharon's governments, but he departed the government over disagreements regarding the Gaza disengagement plan. As Minister of Finance, Netanyahu engaged in a major reform of the Israeli economy, which was cr ed by commentators as having significantly improved Israel's subsequent economic performance. Netanyahu retook the Likud leadership in December 2005, after Sharon left to form a new party, Kadima.
In December 2006, Netanyahu became the official Leader of the Opposition in the Knesset and Chairman of Likud. Following the 2009 parliamentary election, in which Likud placed second and right-wing parties won a majority,Netanyahu formed a coalition government. After the victory in the 2013 elections, he became the second person to be elected to the position of Prime Minister for a third term, after Israel's founder David Ben-Gurion. In March 2015, Netanyahu was elected to his fourth term as prime minister.
Netanyahu has been elected Prime Minister of Israel four times, matching David Ben-Gurion's record. Netanyahu is the only prime minister in Israel's history to have been elected three times in a row. Netanyahu is currently the second longest-serving Prime Minister in Israel's history after David Ben-Gurion, and upon the completion of his current term he will become the longest-serving Prime Minister in the history of Israel.
Early life and career
Netanyahu was born in 1949 in Tel Aviv, Israel, to Tzila Segal (28 August 1912 – 31 January 2000) and Warsaw-born Prof. Benzion Netanyahu (1910–2012), the middle of three children. He was initially raised and educated in Jerusalem, where he attended Henrietta Szold Elementary School. A copy of his evaluation from his 6th grade teacher Ruth Rubenstein indicated that Netanyahu was courteous, polite, and helpful; that his work was "responsible and punctual"; and that Netanyahu was friendly, disciplined, cheerful, brave, active and obedient.
Between 1956 and 1958, and again from 1963 to 1967, his family lived in the United States in Cheltenham Township, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia, where he attended and graduated from Cheltenham High School and was active in a debate club. To this day, he speaks fluent English, with a noticeable Philadelphia accent.
After graduating from high school in 1967, Netanyahu returned to Israel to enlist in the Israel Defense Forces. He trained as a combat soldier and served for five years in an elite special forces unit of the IDF, Sayeret Matkal. He took part in numerous cross-border assault raids during the 1967–70 War of Attrition, rising to become a team-leader in the unit. He was wounded in combat on multiple occasions. He was involved in many other missions, including Operation Inferno (1968), and the rescue of the hijacked Sabena Flight 571 in May 1972 in which he was shot in the shoulder.
After completing his army service in 1972, Netanyahu returned to the United States in late 1972 to study architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He returned to Israel in October 1973 to serve in the Yom Kippur War in the Sayeret Matkal commando unit. While there, he fought in special forces raids along the Suez Canal against the Egyptian forces, before leading a commando attack deep inside Syrian territory, whose mission remains classified today.
"I have great respect for the unit. This is a unit that changes the reality of our lives even though its actions are a secret. Although it is a small unit, it influences all branches of the military... My service in the unit strengthened my understanding of the risks involved behind approving operations and the risks that fighters are taking on. It is tangible and not theoretical for me."
Benjamin Netanyahu, on Sayeret Matkal, (Maariv2007)
He then returned to the United States and completed an SB degreein architecture in February 1975 and earned an SM degree from the MIT Sloan School of Management in 1977. Concurrently, he was studying towards a doctorate in political science, until his studies were broken off by the death of his brother in Operation Entebbe.
At MIT, Netanyahu studied a double-load, completing an SM (that would normally take four years) in only two and a half years, despite taking a break to fight in the Yom Kippur War, and while simultaneously completing a thesis in a graduate course at Harvard. Professor Groisser at MIT recalled: "He did superbly. He was very bright. Organized. Strong. Powerful. He knew what he wanted to do and how to get it done."
At that time he changed his name to Benjamin Ben Nitai (Nitai, a reference to both Mount Nitai and to the eponymous Jewish sage Nittai of Arbela, was a pen name often used by his father for articles). Years later, in an interview with the media, Netanyahu clarified that he decided to do so to make it easier for Americans to pronounce his name. This fact has been used by his political rivals to accuse him indirectly of a lack of Israeli national identity and loyalty.
In 1976 Netanyahu's older brother Yonatan Netanyahu was killed. Yonatan was serving as the commander of Benjamin's former unit, the Sayeret Matkal, and died during the counter-terrorism hostage-rescue mission Operation Entebbe in which his unit rescued more than 100 mostly Israeli hostages hijacked by terrorists and flown to the Entebbe Airport in Uganda.
Netanyahu studied at MIT between 1972 and 1977, earning SB
In 1976 Netanyahu graduated near the top of his class at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and was headhunted to be an economic consultant for the Boston Consulting Group in Boston, Massachusetts, working at the company between 1976 and 1978. At the Boston Consulting Group, he was a colleague of Mitt Romney, with whom he formed a lasting friendship. Romney remembers that Netanyahu at the time was: "[A] strong personality with a distinct point of view", and says "[w]e can almost speak in shorthand... [w]e share common experiences and have a perspective and underpinning which is similar." Netanyahu said that their "easy communication" was a result of "B.C.G.'s intellectually rigorous boot camp."
In 1978, Netanyahu appeared on Boston local television, under the name of 'Ben Nitai', where he argued: "The real core of the conflict is the unfortunate Arab refusal to accept the State of Israel ... For 20 years the Arabs had both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and if self-determination, as they now say, is the core of the conflict, they could have easily established a Palestinian state."
In 1978, Netanyahu returned to Israel. Between 1978 and 1980 he ran the Jonathan Netanyahu Anti-Terror Institute, a non-governmental organization devoted to the study of terrorism; the Institute held a number of international conferences focused on the discussion of international terrorism. From 1980 to 1982 he was director of marketing for Rim Industries in Jerusalem. During this period Netanyahu made his first connections with several Israeli politicians, including Minister Moshe Arens, who appointed him as his Deputy Chief of Mission at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., a position he held from 1982 until 1984. Between 1984 and 1988 Netanyahu served as the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations. Netanyahu was influenced by Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, with whom he formed a relationship during the 1980s. He referred to Schneerson as "the most influential man of our time."
Early political career, 1988–96
Netanyahu (right) with Sorin Hershko, a soldier wounded and permanently paralyzed in Operation Entebbe
, 2 July 1986
Prior to the 1988 Israeli legislative election Netanyahu returned to Israel and joined theLikud party. In the Likud's internal elections, Netanyahu was placed fifth on the party list. Later on he was elected as a Knesset member of the 12th Knesset, and was appointed as a deputy of the foreign minister Moshe Arens, and later on David Levy. Netanyahu and Levy did not cooperate and the rivalry between the two only intensified afterwards. During the Gulf War in early 1991, the English-fluent Netanyahu emerged as the principal spokesman for Israel in media interviews on CNN and other news outlets. During the Madrid Conference of 1991 Netanyahu was among members the Israeli delegation headed by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. After the Madrid Conference Netanyahu was appointed as Deputy Minister in the Israeli Prime Minister's Office.
Following the defeat of the Likud party in the 1992 Israeli legislative elections the Likud party held a primary election in 1993 to select its leader, and Netanyahu was victorious, defeating Benny Begin, son of the late Prime Minister Menachem Begin, and veteran politician David Levy (Sharon initially sought Likud party leadership as well, but quickly withdrew when it was evident that he was attracting minimal support). Shamir retired from politics shortly after the Likud's defeat in the 1992 elections.
Following the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, his temporary successor Shimon Peresdecided to call early elections in order to give the government a mandate to advance the peace process. Netanyahu was the Likud's candidate for Prime Minister in the 1996 Israeli legislative election which took place on 26 May 1996 and were the first Israeli elections in which Israelis elected their Prime Minister directly. Netanyahu hired AmericanRepublican political operative Arthur Finkelstein to run his campaign, and although the American style of sound bites and sharp attacks elicited harsh criticism from inside Israel, it proved effective (the method was later copied by Ehud Barak during the 1999 election campaign in which Barak beat Netanyahu). When Netanyahu won the 1996 election, he became the youngest person in the history of the position and the first Israeli Prime Minister to be born in the State of Israel (Yitzhak Rabin was born in Jerusalem, under the British Mandate of Palestine, prior to the 1948 founding of the Israeli state).
Netanyahu's victory over the pre-election favorite Shimon Peres surprised many. The main catalyst in the downfall of the latter was a wave of suicide bombings shortly before the elections; on 3 and 4 March 1996, Palestinians carried out two suicide bombings, killing 32 Israelis, with Peres seemingly unable to stop the attacks. Unlike Peres, Netanyahu did not trust Yasser Arafat and conditioned any progress at the peace process on the Palestinian National Authority fulfilling its obligations – mainly fighting terrorism, and ran with the campaign slogan "Netanyahu – making a safe peace". However, although Netanyahu won the election for Prime Minister, Labor won the Knesset elections, beating the Likud–Gesher–Tzometalliance, meaning Netanyahu had to rely on a coalition with the ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and UTJ (whose social welfare policies flew in the face of his capitalistic outlook) in order to govern.
First premiership (1996–99)[ ]
Netanyahu met with Palestinian PresidentYasser Arafat
at the Erez crossing, 4 September 1996
A spate of suicide bombings reinforced the Likud position for security. Hamas claimed responsibility for most of the bombings. As Prime Minister Netanyahu raised many questions about many central premises of the Oslo peace process. One of his main points was disagreement with the Oslo premise that the negotiations should proceed in stages, meaning that concessions should be made to Palestinians before any resolution was reached on major issues, such as the status of Jerusalem, and the amending of the Palestinian National Charter. Oslo supporters had claimed that the multi-stage approach would build goodwill among Palestinians and would propel them to seek reconciliation when these major issues were raised in later stages. Netanyahu said that these concessions only gave encouragement to extremist elements, without receiving any tangible gestures in return. He called for tangible gestures of Palestinian goodwill in return for Israeli concessions. Despite his stated differences with the Oslo Accords, Prime Minister Netanyahu continued their implementation, but his Premiership saw a marked slow-down in the Peace Process.
In 1996, Netanyahu and Jerusalem's mayor Ehud Olmert decided to open an exit in the Arab Quarter for the Western Wall Tunnel, which prior Prime Minister Shimon Peres had instructed to be put on hold for the sake of peace. This sparked three days of rioting by Palestinians, resulting in both Israelis and Palestinians being killed. In January 1997 Netanyahu signed the Hebron Protocol with thePalestinian Authority which resulted in the redeployment of Israeli forces in Hebron and the turnover of civilian authority in much of the area to the Palestinian Authority.