Benjamin Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu
Netanyahu Jerusalem in July 2019 (cropped).jpg
9th Prime Minister of Israel
Assumed office
31 March 2009 (2009-03-31)
Preceded byEhud Olmert
In office
18 June 1996 (1996-06-18) – 6 July 1999 (1999-07-06)
PresidentEzer Weizman
Preceded byShimon Peres
Succeeded byEhud Barak
Chairman of Likud
Assumed office
20 December 2005 (2005-12-20)
Preceded byAriel Sharon
In office
3 February 1993 (1993-02-03) – 6 July 1999 (1999-07-06)
Preceded byYitzhak Shamir
Succeeded byAriel Sharon
Personal details
Born (1949-10-21) 21 October 1949 (age 70)
Tel Aviv, Israel
Political partyLikud
  • Miriam Weizmann
    (m. 1972; div. 1978)
  • Fleur Cates
    (m. 1981; div. 1984)
  • Sara Ben-Artzi
    (m. 1991)
ResidenceBeit Aghion, Jerusalem
Alma mater
  • Politician
  • diplomat
  • writer
  • economic consultant
  • marketing executive
Military service
Allegiance Israel
Branch/service Israeli Defense Forces
Years of service1967–1973
RankIDF seren rotated.svg Seren (Captain)
UnitSayeret Matkal
Knessets12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22
Ministerial roles
1996–97Science and Technology
1996–99Housing and Construction
2002–03Foreign Affairs
2009–13Economic Strategy
2009–13Pensioner Affairs
2012–13Foreign Affairs
2013Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs
2015Pensioner Affairs
2015–2019Foreign Affairs

Benjamin Netanyahu (HebrewAbout this soundבִּנְיָמִין נְתַנְיָהוּ ; born 21 October 1949) is an Israeli politician who has been Prime Minister of Israel since 2009, having previously held the position from 1996 to 1999. Netanyahu is also the Chairman of the Likud – National Liberal Movement. He is the longest-serving Prime Minister in Israeli history[3][4] and the first to be born in Israel after the establishment of the state.

Born in Tel Aviv to secular Jewish parents, Netanyahu was raised in both Jerusalem and the Philadelphia area of Pennsylvania, United States. He returned to Israel immediately upon graduating high school in 1967 to join the Israel Defense Forces shortly after the Six-Day War.[5] Netanyahu became a team leader in the Sayeret Matkal special forces unit[6][7] and 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.[8][9] Netanyahu achieved the rank of captain before being discharged. After graduating from MIT with a Bachelor of Science (SB) and a Master of Science (SM), Netanyahu became an economic consultant for the Boston Consulting Group. He moved back to Israel in 1978 to found the Yonatan Netanyahu Anti-Terror Institute, named after his brother Yonatan Netanyahu, who died leading Operation Entebbe.

In 1984, Netanyahu was appointed the Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, a role he held until 1988. He was subsequently elected to the Knesset before becoming the leader of Likud in 1993; he then led the party to victory at the 1996 election, becoming Israel's youngest-ever prime minister. After being defeated in the 1999 election, Netanyahu left politics, returning to the private sector. He later served as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Finance in the government of Ariel Sharon, but eventually resigned over disagreements regarding the Gaza disengagement plan. As Finance Minister, Netanyahu initiated major reforms of the Israeli economy that were credited by commentators as having significantly improved Israel's subsequent economic performance.[10]

Netanyahu returned to the leadership of Likud in December 2005 after Sharon stepped to form a new party, Kadima.[11] Although Likud finished second in the 2009 election to Kadima, Netanyahu was able to form a coalition government with other right-wing parties and was sworn in as Prime Minister for a second time.[12][13][14] He went on to lead Likud to victory in the 2013 and 2015 elections.[15] After the April 2019 election resulted in no party being able to form a government, a second election took place in September 2019; in that election, the centrist Blue and White party emerged slightly ahead of Netanyahu's Likud. However, neither Netanyahu nor Benny Gantz of the Blue and White Party was able to form a government, and Gantz returned the mandate to the president.[16]

Since December 2016, Netanyahu has been under investigation for corruption by Israeli police and prosecutors.[17] On 21 November 2019, he was indicted on charges of breach of trust, bribery and fraud.[18] Due to the indictment, Netanyahu is legally required to relinquish all of his ministry posts other than the prime minister position.[19][20]

Early life and military career

Netanyahu was born in 1949 in Tel Aviv, Israel, to Tzila Segal (28 August 1912 – 31 January 2000) who had been born in Petah Tikva in the Ottoman Empire's Mutasarrifate of Jerusalem, and a Warsaw-born father, Prof. Benzion Netanyahu (1910–2012). He was the second of three children. He discovered via a DNA test that he is, in part, of Sephardi Jewish ancestry.[21] 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 he was friendly, disciplined, cheerful, brave, active and obedient.[22]

Between 1956 and 1958, and again from 1963 to 1967,[23] his family lived in the United States in Cheltenham Township, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia, while father Benzion Netanyahu taught at Dropsie College.[5] Benjamin attended and graduated from Cheltenham High School and was active in the debate club, chess club, and soccer.[5] He and his brother Yonatan grew dissatisfied with a perceived superficial way of life they encountered in the area, including the prevalent youth counterculture movement, literary interpretation focused on individualized feelings, and the liberal sensibilities of the Reform synagogue, Temple Judea of Philadelphia, that the family attended.[5] To this day, he speaks fluent English, with a noticeable Philadelphia accent.[24]

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, (Maariv 2007)[8]

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.[9] 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.[25]