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“No one yet knows what awaits the Jews in the 21st century, but we must make every effort to ensure that it is better than what befell them in the twentieth, the century of the Holocaust.”

—Benjamin Netanyahu


Benjamin Netanyahu was born on October 21, 1949, in Tel Aviv, Israel. He joined the Israeli military in 1967, moving into the special operations force that rescued a hijacked airplane at the Tel Aviv airport in 1972. Netanyahu became leader of the Likud party in 1993 and continued working with Likud since, twice serving as prime minister.

Early Years

Benjamin Netanyahu was born on October 21, 1949, in Tel Aviv, Israel and grew up in Jerusalem. He spent most of his teen years living in the Philadelphia area, where his father, noted Jewish historian Benzion Netanyahu, worked as a professor. In 1967, he returned to Israel to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces' elite unit, "Sayeret Matkal," and took part in a number of military operations, including the dramatic 1972 rescue of a hijacked Sebana passenger jet. Codenamed "Operation Isotope," the rescue was led by future Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

Netanyahu returned to the United States that same year and went on to receive degrees in architecture and business administration from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1976, he was employed by the Boston Consulting Group, but returned to Israel following the death of Yoni, his eldest brother, who was killed attempting to free hostages from a hijacked Air France airliner in Uganda. Netanyahu became highly involved in international counterterrorism efforts, which helped launch his political career: first serving in the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C. (1982-84), then serving as the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations (1984-88). During his time at the U.N., he successfully led a campaign to declassify U.N. archives on Nazi war crimes.

Political Success

In 1988, Netanyahu was elected a member of the Knesset by the Likud Party and served as deputy minister for foreign affairs. Five years later, he was elected chairman of the Likud Party and its prime minister candidate. In 1996, he was elected prime minister of Israel, defeating incumbent Labor candidate Shimon Peres. Netanyahu served as prime minister until 1999. During his term, he signed the Hebron and Wye Accords, advancing the peace process with the Palestinians. He also expanded government privatization, liberalized currency regulations and reduced deficits.

Following his term as prime minister, Netanyahu worked in the private sector and toured on the lecture circuit. But in 2002, he returned to politics, serving as minister of foreign affairs before becoming minister of finance. On March 31, 2009, he was sworn in as prime minister for the second time, punctuating his victory by establishing a national unity government and calling for a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state. In his famous June 2009 address to Bar-Ilan University, he said, "I told President Obama in Washington, if we get a guarantee of demilitarization, and if the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state, we are ready to agree to a real peace agreement, a demilitarized Palestinian state side by side with the Jewish state."

Netanyahu found himself at odds with the United States in November 2013. He objected to the deal reached between the United States and Iran regarding Iran's nuclear program. The agreement calls for Iran to reduce or suspend its efforts to enrich uranium in exchange for a loosing of existing sanctions on Iran. According to CNN, Netanyahu considers this deal to be "a historic mistake." He said that it is "taking only cosmetic steps which it could reverse easily within a few weeks, and in return, sanctions that took years to put in place are going to be eased."

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Personal Life

Netanyahu has a wife, Sara, a child psychologist. They have two children together: Yair and Avner. Netanyahu also has a daughter, Noa, from a previous marriage that ended in 1978. He has written and edited several books, many of which are on the subject of terrorism: Self-portrait of a Hero: The Letters of Jonathan Netanyahu (1963-76); International Terrorism: Challenge and Response (1979); Terrorism: How the West Can Win (1987); A Place Among the Nations: Israel and the World (1992); Fighting Terrorism: How Democracies Can Defeat Domestic; and International Terrorism (1996).

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Cite This Page

APA Style

Benjamin Netanyahu. (2015). The Biography.com website. Retrieved 05:55, Jan 21, 2015, from http://www.biography.com/people/benjamin-netanyahu-9421908.

Harvard Style

Benjamin Netanyahu. [Internet]. 2015. The Biography.com website. Available from: http://www.biography.com/people/benjamin-netanyahu-9421908 [Accessed 21 Jan 2015].

MLA Style

"Benjamin Netanyahu." Bio. A&E Television Networks, 2015. Web. 21 Jan. 2015.

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