The Rise of Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu | NowThis World

To some, he’s a beloved leader who has consistently put their safety and security first But to others, he’s a despised ruler who has shown a flagrant disregard for international, and potentially domestic, laws

But who is he really? This is the rise of Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu was born in Tel Aviv in 1949 His father, Benzion, was a historian and known to hold his sons to incredibly high standards He was also political and extremely distrusting of left-leaning Israelis who wanted to compromise with Palestine In 1963, the Netanyahus moved to the United States after Benzion accepted an academic post in Pennsylvania

The young Netanyahu attended Cheltenham High School, located in what was then a Jewish enclave in the suburbs of Philadelphia He went to high school at the height of the Vietnam war And he was reportedly one of the few students who supported the war Eventually, just days before his high school graduation ceremony, Netanyahu returned to Israel to serve in the IDF, or Israeli Defense Forces And he thrived in the military

Netanyahu served as a captain of an elite commando unit called the Sayeret Matkal, after being recommended by one of its members His service ended in 1972, but that certainly wasn’t the last time he would fight He moved back to the United States to study at MIT That same year he married his first wife, Miriam Weizmann, who he first met in Israel But in 1973, war thrust “Bibi” back to Israel and back to the military

He rejoined the same elite unit to fight in the Yom Kippur War After the war, he returned to the US But the Israeli military would still have influence over his life Neyanyahu’s older brother Yoni also fought as part of the Sayeret Matkal But his fate would be very different than his brother’s

In 1976, during an IDF rescue operation in Uganda, Yoni was killed This made Netanyahu, who had just started a new job as a consultant in Boston, change course in his career He started an anti-terrorism institute in his brother’s name But his brother’s death wasn’t the only event that would rock his personal life In 1978, he and Miriam had their first child, but their marriage crumbled soon after

Netanyahu returned to Israel after his divorce, and worked at a furniture company… And in 1981, he married Fleur Cates But their marriage would also end in divorce in 1984 During this time, however, “Bibi’s” professional life would begin to take off In 1982, a family friend of the Netanyahus, Moshe Arens, was named the Israeli ambassador to the United States And just like that… Benjamin Netanyahu went from furniture company to foreign affairs

He was asked to be Arens’ deputy at the Israeli embassy in Washington DC His American accent set him apart and made him an ideal voice of the Israeli government on American television Netanyahu thrived in his new role and was quickly promoted to be Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations In 1988, Netanyahu once again returned to Israel

He ran for a seat in the country’s parliament, known as the Knesset, as a member of the right-wing Likud Party And he won That same year, Netanyahu’s old boss Moshe Arens was named Israel's foreign minister And once again, he appointed Netanyahu as his deputy Netanyahu was a natural fit for the position, which oversaw relations between the Israeli government and the U

S Congress During this time, Netanyahu began positioning himself as a conservative force within the Likud party — and that move quickly paid off And in 1991, “Bibi” married his third and current wife — Sara Ben-Artzi Then in 1992, the Likud party was defeated in parliamentary elections

A number of Likud leaders resigned, including Netanyahu’s longtime mentor Moshe Arens, to clear the way for new leadership Likud had a whole crop of rising stars, including Netanyahu, who were known as the “Likud princes” Netanyahu and the rest of the princes were seen as part of the “Americanization” of Israeli politics at the time, due to their pragmatic approach to political dealmaking But when it came down to it, Netanyahu triumphed over all of his peers He became the youngest party chair in Israel’s history, during an extremely consequential time

In 1993, the governing Labor Party attempted to start the peace negotiations with Palestine The Oslo Accords proposed that the Palestinian Liberation Organization, PLO, and Israel would recognize each other Then, the two would gradually reconcile and negotiate longstanding issues over the next five years As the Israeli opposition leader, Netanyahu condemned the deal and lambasted then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin He even wrote an op-ed for the New York Times claiming that a Palestinian state on Israel’s border would increase terrorism within the country

[NETANYAHU]: What we have is a general abrogation of responsibility, instead of taking care of security, there is gross insecurity and irresponsibility on the part of the Prime Minister [HOST]: But in 1995, something would happen that would jeopardize the entire peace process After holding a peace rally in Tel Aviv, Prime Minister Rabin was assassinated by a right-wing extremist Israeli His successor, Shimon Peres, called for early elections to gain a mandate to continue advancing the process laid out in the Oslo Accords But that wouldn’t happen… Instead, Netanyahu won the 1996 election by an incredibly close margin

Benjamin Natanyahu became the youngest Prime Minister in Israel’s history On the campaign trail, Netanyahu consistently denounced the Oslo Accords, and outlined policies that would undermine them, like a proposal to expand Israeli settlements in the West Bank So in his first term in office, Netanyahu did in fact undermine the accords, mainly through his expansion of controversial settlements… But he also made some major concessions for peace as well like giving some land in the West Bank back to the PLO… These compromises made it more difficult for Netanyahu to hold his party together In 1999, leaders in Likud began turning on Netanyahu, even his former mentor Moshe Arens turned his back on “Bibi” and campaigned against him While Netanyahu survived the challenges within his party, he ultimately lost the 1999 national election to Labor candidate Ehud Barak by a wide margin The results seemed to be a referendum on Netanyahu’s policies And signaled that Israeli citizens wanted to continue pushing for peace with Palestine

Netanyahu stepped down as Chairman of the Likud party after his loss, handing the role over to Ariel Sharon… But most knew this wouldn’t be the end of Netanyahu’s political career In fact, when he cast his vote for party leader after his resignation, a crowd reportedly greeted him with the foreshadowing chant, “He’ll be back” And that’s exactly what would happen In 2002, after Sharon became Prime Minister, he tapped Netanyahu to join his cabinet in a move meant to bring Likud’s hard-right into his coalition Over the next few years, Netanyahu remained in Sharon’s cabinet, patiently waiting for his time to lead the country once more

Then in 2005, Netanyahu leapt at an opportunity He resigned in protest over Prime Minister Sharon’s decision to withdraw Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip [NETANYAHU]: I cannot be a partner to a move that I think compromises the security Israel, tears the people apart and enshrines the principle of withdrawal to the indefensible '67 line and, I think in the future, will also risk the unity of Jerusalem [HOST]: After turning his back on Sharon, Netanyahu led a group of self-described “rebels” within Likud who continued to oppose Sharon’s planned withdrawal And later that year, Netanyahu decided it was finally time for him to regain leadership of the Likud party…

He campaigned against Ariel Sharon… And was so close to returning to power… But he was narrowly defeated Despite his loss,“Bibi” wasn’t finished just yet In a twist of fate, feeling demoralized by his near loss — Ariel Sharon quit the party, to launch his own centrist party

Elections were called for March 2006, but before they were to occur, Sharon suffered a serious stroke that would put him in a coma for years… until 2014, when he ultimately died In the wake of this tragedy, Netanyahu was reportedly seen by some as the best leader for Israel’s security Despite this, Netanyahu’s party didn’t win the 2006 election And he would have to wait another 3 years before he could try again… Likud narrowly lost the next election in 2009… but when a number of smaller parties formed a majority coalition with Likud Netanyahu was able to once again became Prime Minister despite losing that election, since he was chosen to lead the newly formed coalition

And just like that Netanyahu was back in power after a decade on the sidelines And with more support from moderates in Israel, Netanyahu began governing without compromise He refused to freeze the building of new settlements in the West Bank, which are illegal under international law This move led to the collapse of peace talks with Palestine in 2011 But at home, Israel’s booming economy and relatively calm security situation boosted Netanyahu’s popularity throughout his time in office between 2013 and 2015

But in 2016, that would change Netanyahu and Likud’s support started to crumble… That collapse began after a bombshell investigation was announced An investigation, into none other than Benjamin Netanyahu

This investigation led to three separate corruption cases against Netanyahu and in February 2019, Israel’s Attorney General announced his intention to indict Netanyahu on bribery and fraud charges But despite all this adversity, Netanyahu still managed to win the 2019 election Now that Netanyahu has defeated this moderate coalition, will his aggressive brand of politics that’s shaped Israel for 30 years go into overdrive? Only time will tell

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