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Benjamin Netanyahu

Biography of Benjamin Netanyahu

Born in Tel-Aviv on October 21, 1949, Benjamin Netanyahu grew up in Jerusalem. He spent his high school years in the United States, where his father, the historian Professor Benzion Netanyahu, a prominent member of the revisionist camp, taught history. Returning to Israel in 1967, Mr. Netanyahu enlisted in the Israel Defense Forces and served in the Sayeret Matkal elite commando unit under Ehud Barak.

Mr. Netanyahu participated in various missions during the War of Attrition, including the Beirut Airport operation. He took part in the rescue of the hijacked Sabena Airlines hostages at Ben Gurion Airport, in which he was wounded. He was also cited for outstanding operational leadership by O.C. Northern Command, the late Maj. Gen. Motta Gur. He was discharged from the I.D.F. in 1972 and reached the rank of captain following the Yom Kippur War.

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Mr. Netanyahu received a B.Sc. in Architecture and an M.Sc. in Management Studies from M.I.T. He also studied political science at M.I.T. and Harvard University.

After completing his studies he was employed by the Boston Consulting Group, an international business consulting firm. He later joined the senior management of Rim Industries in Jerusalem.

In 1979 he initiated and organized an international conference against terrorism, under the auspices of the Jonathan Institute - a private foundation dedicated to the study of terrorism, which was named after his brother Jonathan who fell while leading the rescue party at Entebbe.

World leaders, including former U.S. President George Bush and former Secretary of State George Shultz, participated in this conference and a subsequent one in 1984. Mr. Netanyahu has been credited by Mr. Shultz for his central role in effecting a change in American policies on international terrorism.

In 1982, at the request of then-Ambassador Moshe Arens, Mr. Netanyahu assumed the position of Deputy Chief of Mission in the Israeli Embassy in Washington. He was a member of the first delegation to the talks on strategic cooperation between Israel and the United States. Two years later he was appointed Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations and served there for four years.

Returning to Israel in 1988, Mr. 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.

Elected on May 29, 1996 as Israel's 9th Prime Minister, Mr. Netanyahu was sworn in to the post on June 18, 1996, following Knesset approval. As Prime Minister, he concluded the Hebron agreement and the Wye River plantation accords with the Palestinians, but failed to implement promised further redeployments when Palestinians reneged on their commitments to curb terror and incitement. In May 1999 Netanyahu he was defeated by
Ehud Barak. In the governments of Ariel Sharon he served as Finance Minister and implemented a controversial free market economy program. Differences with Sharon over the issue of Disengagement  caused him to leave the government on August 8 2005.

In the elections of February 10, 2009 for the 18th Knesset, the right wing block led by Mr Netanyahu got the most votes. Netanyahu's Likud party got one less mandate than the rival Kadima Party. Netanyahu was asked by President Peres to form a government.   

Ami Isseroff

Updated February 27, 2008

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Biography of Benjamin Netanyahu