Time Speed Magazine

Benjamin Netanyahu: The Controversial Leader Who Shaped Modern Israel

Early Life and Education

Benjamin Netanyahu was born in Tel Aviv on October 21, 1949. He is the son of Zila and Benzion Netanyahu, who was a noted historian. Netanyahu grew up with his two brothers, Yonatan and Iddo.

Netanyahu spent most of his childhood living in Jerusalem. He attended high school at Cheltenham High School in Pennsylvania. He returned to Israel to enlist in the Israel Defense Forces shortly after graduating high school in 1967.

Netanyahu went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in architecture from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1975. He also earned a Master of Science degree from MIT in 1977. While at MIT, Netanyahu studied political science, management, and business administration.

Military Career

Benjamin Netanyahu had a distinguished military career, serving in the Israeli Defense Forces’ elite special forces unit Sayeret Matkal. He volunteered for the unit in 1967, just months after the Six-Day War.

As a young commando in Sayeret Matkal, Netanyahu took part in many covert operations against PLO factions. In 1968, he participated in Operation Inferno, where his unit attacked the PLO headquarters in Karameh, Jordan. During Operation Isotope in 1972, Netanyahu was shot in the shoulder while rescuing hostages from a hijacked Sabena Airlines plane.

Netanyahu rose through the ranks in Sayeret Matkal, becoming a team leader. He planned and led Operation Entebbe in 1976, rescuing 102 hostages held in Uganda. This counter-terrorist hostage rescue is considered one of the most daring and successful special forces operations in history. After Entebbe, Netanyahu was promoted to captain before departing the military.

Early Political Career

Benjamin Netanyahu first entered politics in 1988, serving as Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs in Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s Likud party government. During this time, he participated in the Madrid Peace Conference in 1991.

In 1993, Netanyahu won the Likud party leadership election following Shamir’s retirement. As Likud party leader, Netanyahu led the opposition against Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s government. He strongly opposed Rabin’s signing of the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians.

In 1996, Netanyahu became the youngest person to be elected Prime Minister of Israel at age 46. He defeated Shimon Peres in a direct election for Prime Minister. During his first term as Prime Minister from 1996 to 1999, Netanyahu emphasized a policy of “three no(s)” – no withdrawal from the Golan Heights, no discussion of the case of Jerusalem, and no negotiations under any preconditions. His coalition government was fragile and he lost the 1999 election to Ehud Barak.

First Term as Prime Minister

Benjamin Netanyahu first became Prime Minister of Israel in June 1996 after defeating Shimon Peres in a direct election for Prime Minister. Netanyahu campaigned on a platform of being tougher on terrorism and slowing down the peace process with the Palestinians.

Upon taking office, Netanyahu faced several domestic challenges. He cut government spending and privatized some state-owned companies to stimulate economic growth and reduce the deficit. However, his economic policies were unpopular with many Israelis. On the national security front, Netanyahu ordered “Operation Grapes of Wrath” in 1996 in response to Hezbollah rocket attacks from Lebanon. The operation sparked international condemnation when Israeli shelling hit a UN compound, killing over 100 Lebanese civilians who had taken refuge there.

In the realm of the peace process, Netanyahu took a cautious approach compared to some of his predecessors. He was skeptical of exchanging land for peace with the Palestinians and Arabs. In 1998, Netanyahu signed the Wye River Memorandum with PLO leader Yasser Arafat, agreeing to withdraw Israeli troops from parts of the West Bank. However, Netanyahu faced pressure from hardliners in his coalition opposed to giving up any West Bank territory. In the end, Netanyahu only partially implemented the Wye agreement before losing power in 1999. While Netanyahu did engage in negotiations during his first term, he was generally seen as putting up obstacles compared to leaders like Rabin and Peres who actively pursued a land-for-peace agenda.

Time Out of Office

After losing the 1999 election to Ehud Barak, Netanyahu temporarily retired from politics. He worked in the private sector, serving as a senior consultant with Israeli communications company BATM Advanced Communications.

During this time, Netanyahu remained critical of the Oslo Accords and the later governments of Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon. He strongly opposed Israel’s unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip in 2005.

Netanyahu believed these policies were endangering Israel’s security and national interests. He argued that withdrawing from the territory only empowered and emboldened terrorist groups like Hamas.

Netanyahu continued to push his political agenda during this time through his writings and public appearances. He published books criticizing the Oslo peace process and Israel’s foreign policy. Netanyahu also made speeches at conferences in Israel and abroad, keeping himself in the public eye.

Though out of office, Netanyahu still exerted influence over Israeli politics as leader of the Likud party. He positioned himself for a return to power, sharply critiquing his successors while strengthening his political base. This set the stage for Netanyahu’s eventual comeback and continued dominance of Israeli politics.

Second Term as Prime Minister

Benjamin Netanyahu regained power in 2009 after his Likud party won enough seats to form a coalition government. This marked the beginning of his second term as Israel’s prime minister.

Upon taking office, Netanyahu focused on economic and security issues. He introduced market reforms and privatizations to boost Israel’s economy following the global financial crisis. On national security, he took a tough stance towards Iran’s nuclear program and warned that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose an existential threat to Israel.

Regional security challenges consumed much of Netanyahu’s second term. Israel fought a war against Hamas in Gaza in 2012 following rocket attacks on Israeli cities. Netanyahu was criticized by some for the high civilian death toll during the conflict. He also had to manage Israel’s deteriorating relationship with Turkey in the aftermath of the Gaza flotilla raid in 2010.

Perhaps most significantly, Netanyahu fiercely opposed the Iran nuclear deal being negotiated by world powers including the US. He argued the deal would not prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons and delivered a controversial speech to the US Congress in 2015 criticizing the Obama administration’s diplomacy. Netanyahu’s focus on the Iranian threat defined his foreign policy during this term.

Third Consecutive Term

Benjamin Netanyahu was re-elected as Prime Minister of Israel for a third consecutive term in January 2013. His Likud party formed a coalition government with center-right and far-right parties like Jewish Home and Yisrael Beiteinu.

Netanyahu continued to implement conservative economic policies during his third term, working to reduce Israel’s budget deficit. He presided throughout strong economic growth, low unemployment, and the development of Israel’s natural gas reserves. However, the cost of living also rose significantly, leading to public protests over housing prices and other issues.

On the domestic front, Netanyahu faced criticism from the political left and center for not making sufficient progress on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. He continued approving the construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, straining relations with Palestinians and the international community.

In foreign policy, Netanyahu took a hard-line stance against Iran’s nuclear program. He opposed the Iran nuclear deal negotiated by the P5+1 countries, believing it did not go far enough to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Netanyahu delivered a controversial speech to the U.S. Congress in 2015 criticizing the deal.

Netanyahu was re-elected again in March 2015, with Likud remaining the largest party in the Knesset. He continued governing with a right-wing coalition and focusing on security issues. Netanyahu’s relationship with President Obama deteriorated over their disagreements on the Iran nuclear deal and Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.

Fourth Term and Corruption Charges

In April 2019, Netanyahu won re-election as Prime Minister, despite facing indictment over corruption charges. His Likud party tied with Blue and White, led by Benny Gantz. After some political wrangling, Netanyahu was able to form a governing coalition and begin his fourth consecutive term as Prime Minister.

However, Netanyahu was indicted on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in November 2019. He denied wrongdoing and refused to resign, becoming the first sitting Israeli Prime Minister to be indicted. The charges related to allegations that Netanyahu accepted expensive gifts from wealthy associates and offered favors to media moguls in exchange for positive news coverage.

Despite the indictment, Netanyahu retained the support of his political allies. However, the charges fueled large protests calling on Netanyahu to resign. Netanyahu was also criticized for taking steps to consolidate personal power while facing criminal charges. In May 2020, he reached a power-sharing agreement with Benny Gantz to remain Prime Minister for 18 months before handing power over, a deal criticized for undermining Israel’s checks and balances.

Ideology and Political Positions

Benjamin Netanyahu has taken a hardline stance on security and defense issues throughout his political career. He has advocated for aggressive military actions against perceived threats, including preemptive strikes. Netanyahu believes that Israel must maintain a qualitative military edge in the Middle East to defend itself against hostile neighbors.

On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Netanyahu has wavered between support for a two-state solution and outright rejection of Palestinian statehood. He endorsed the Oslo Accords in the 1990s but later backtracked as prime minister, refusing to halt settlement construction in the West Bank. Netanyahu’s conditions for supporting a Palestinian state, including demilitarization and Israeli control over borders, have been deemed unrealistic by Palestinian leaders.

Economically, Netanyahu supports free-market, capitalist policies. As finance minister in the early 2000s, he implemented austerity measures and privatization reforms. Netanyahu has cut taxes, reduced welfare spending, and eliminated price controls on many goods and services as prime minister. However, income inequality and the cost of living have risen under his tenure. Netanyahu also passed “economic peace” initiatives aimed at boosting the Palestinian economy through private sector development.

Legacy and Significance

Benjamin Netanyahu has had a profound impact on Israeli politics and society during his long tenure as Prime Minister across multiple terms. He has helped shape the country’s national security and foreign policy strategies, taking a hardline stance towards threats from Iran and Palestinian militant groups. Visit our Website Time Speed Magazine.

Netanyahu’s legacy is a divisive one among Israelis. Supporters credit him with boosting the economy, strengthening the military, and standing up to enemies seeking Israel’s destruction. They see him as a stalwart defender of the Jewish state. Critics argue he has eroded democracy, deepened divisions, and pursued risky policies that undermine prospects for peace. His combative style and legal troubles have polarized public opinion.

Under Netanyahu, Israel has shifted politically to the right. He has promoted conservative policies on settlements, refugees, and the role of religion in public life. This has appealed to nationalist elements of society but alienated more liberal and secular factions. Netanyahu’s close ties with the Trump administration marked a high point in US-Israel relations. However, relations with Palestinians and the wider Arab world have deteriorated.

Netanyahu is the longest-serving Prime Minister in Israel’s history. For supporters, he has brought strength and continuity to the country’s leadership. Detractors see a corrosive figure who has clung to power while facing criminal indictments. Regardless of one’s view, Netanyahu has undoubtedly left a significant mark on Israel’s domestic affairs and global standing. His legacy will be debated for years to come.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *