What is the story of former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu?
Benjamin (or Binyamin or “Bibi”) Netanyahu served as Israeli Prime Minister from 1996 to 1999, the culmination of a rapid rise in Israeli politics in the right-wing Likud party. He was born in Tel-Aviv and grew up in Jerusalem, but spent his young adult life in the United States, including B.Sc. and M.Sc degrees from MIT and a promising early career in international consulting and business. He returned to Israel in 1967 and served with distinction as an officer in the IDF, reaching the rank of captain following the Yom Kippur War in 1973.
Motivated by the death of his brother Yoni in the course of the 1976 Entebbe rescue operation, Netanyahu organized two international conferences against terrorism (1979 and 1984) that attracted participation from world leaders, including former US President George Bush and former US Secretary of State George Shultz. During the 1980s he served as Deputy Chief of Mission in the Israeli Embassy in Washington and in 1984 became Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations where he served for four years.
In 1988, Netanyahu was elected to the 12th Knesset as a Likud member and was appointed Deputy Foreign Minister. During the Gulf War he served as Israel’s principal representative in the international arena. In October 1991, he was a senior member of the Israeli delegation to the Madrid Peace Conference, which initiated the first direct negotiations between Israel and Syria, Lebanon, and a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation.
On March 25, 1993, he was elected Likud Party Chairman and the party’s candidate for Prime Minister leading to his election on May 29, 1996 as Israel’s 9th Prime Minister, with a narrow victory margin of less than 1 percent. The closeness of the election left him weak within his own party and dependent on right-wing members to hold onto power. Accusations of fraud in his government further weakened his hold on power and he was never able to form a stable coalition in the Knesset.
His term ended three years later when he and his right-wing Likud Party were defeated by Labor Party leader Ehud Barak, who was determined to restore momentum to the Oslo peace process despite the continuing bad faith of Yasser Arafat.
In 2002, as the government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon struggles with the ongoing al-Aqsa intifada and the end of any hope of peace with the Palestinians as long as Yasser Arafat is their leader, Netanyahu is seen as a potential Prime Minister in the next Israeli election cycle.