Benjamin Netanyahu, dubbed by his supporters “King Bibi,” is currently the second-longest-serving prime minister in Israel.
Netanyahu was born in Tel Aviv in 1949, a year after the statehood of Israel. If he wins the April 9 elections, he will most probably break the record of David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s founding father, to become the longest-serving leader in Israel’s history. Not bad for a politician who was criticized for lack of experience, as he won his first elections by a razor-thin margin in 1996, becoming Israel’s youngest prime minister.
However, Netanyahu is also struggling for his political survival, entangled in a series of corruption affairs.Israel’s Attorney General Avichai-Mandelblit has announced his intention to indict Netanyahu for bribery and breach of trust in three separate cases, pending a hearing.
In two of the cases, Netanyahu is suspected of providing regulatory and financial benefits to business owners of large media and telecom corporations in return for favorable media coverage.In the other case, he allegedly received expensive cigars, champaign, and jewellery worth about 1 million new shekels (275,000 U.S. dollars) from Israeli tycoon and Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan.
Netanyahu’s father, Benzion, was a Polish-born historian and a member of the nationalistic Revisionist Zionism faction, supporting a “Greater Israel” which means one Jewish state between the Mediterranean Sea in the west and the Jordan River in the east.In 1956, the Netanyahu family moved to the United States, where he spent his teenage years and attended high school.
Netanyahu later returned to Israel to serve as a soldier and commander in an elite commando unit called Sayeret Matkal, before returning to the United States and obtaining academic degrees in architecture and business administration at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1976, his brother, Yonatan, was killed while commanding a Special Forces rescue operation to free Israeli hostages in Uganda.
The death of his brother had a tremendous influence on the family, as Netanyahu established an anti-terror research institute in the memory of his brother and became involved in anti-terror research.
In 1993, he won the Likud chairmanship, becoming the official leader of the party. He expressed strong opposition to the 1993 Oslo Accords, an interim framework agreement providing the Palestinian with self-government. In 1996, amid a wave of attacks by Palestinians which killed hundreds of Israelis, Netanyahu was elected as prime minister for the first time, beating Shimon Peres, former president who then headed the Labor party.
Despite Netanyahu’s hawkish views against the Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic contacts, he negotiated with the Palestinian Authority in 1997 and signed a deal handing the control over some 80 percent of the West Bank city of Hebron to the Palestinian Authority. A year later, he signed the Wye River Memorandum, an agreement to implement a deal from 1995 that outlined further withdrawals from the West Bank.
Netanyahu was defeated in 1999 by Ehud Barak, a left-wing politician and former army chief. In his second term as prime minister, between 2009 and 2013, Netanyahu mainly focused on Iran, highlighting the risk a nuclear Iran poses to Israel, and spending more than 11 billion dollars in preparation for a possible military conflict with Iran.
The Iranian issue also shadowed his relations with U.S. President Barack Obama, with a head-on collision between the two amid Netanyahu’s hawkish view on the Iranian nuclear program negotiations and the conflict with the Palestinians. The relations with the United States saw a revival after President Donald Trump was elected. Last May, Trump moved the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.Netanyahu hailed the move as “a historic day” and defined Trump as “Israel’s best friend.”