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last updated June 25, 2009 11:31 AM (EST+7)
Benjamin Netanyahu

Netanyahu was born in 1949 to a revisionist family in Tel Aviv. He went to primary school in Jerusalem, before moving to the United States with his family between 1956 and 1958, and again between 1963 and 1967. He returned to Israel to serve in the military. He was in the military from 1967 until 1972 and attained the rank of captain in an elite commando unit.


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After his military service he returned to the US and obtained a first degree in architecture from Harvard and a second degree in business administration from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He then worked for the Boston consultant group, while lobbying in the US on behalf of the State of Israel.

Netanyahu returned to Israel after his brother, Jonathan, was killed in July 1976 during the Entebbe Operation. He started to advocate international cooperation in fighting terrorism. In 1980 he set up and headed the Jonathan Institute for the Study of Terrorism, and started work as a marketing manager in a Jerusalem based furniture company, “Rim”.

From 1982 until 1984 Netanyahu served in the Israeli embassy in Washington, and then, from 1984 until 1988, he served as Israeli ambassador to the United Nations. In this capacity he insisted on the opening of files about Nazi war criminals held in the UN archives.

In 1988, Netanyahu was elected to the 12th Knesset on the Likud list. He served as deputy minister for foreign affairs until 1990. Following the collapse of the national unity government in March 1990, he was appointed deputy minister in the prime minister’s office and in this capacity participated in the Madrid Conference.

In the Likud primaries for leadership on March 25, 1993, Netanyahu was elected chairman. As chairman of Likud he expressed right-wing views and spoke in favor of massive privatization of government owned companies and state lands. Towards the elections for the 14th Knesset he managed to convince other candidates not to run for prime minister, ensuring that in the May 1996 elections there would be only two candidates for prime minister, himself and Shimon Peres.  He won the election and set up a government with other religious parties, Yisrael Be’aliya and the Third Way.

Netanyahu first met Yasser Arafat in September 1996 and his government signed the Hebron Protocol in January 1997 and the Wye River Memorandum in October 1998. During his term as prime minister, several ministers resigned from government, and there were many differences of opinion within the coalition regarding its policy on several central issues, making the proper functioning of the government very difficult. Therefore Netanyahu voted in favor of holding early elections for prime minister. Following his defeat in 1999, Netanyahu resigned as chairman of Likud and from the 15th Knesset.

He re-entered politics in 2002, after the Labor party left the coalition. He was appointed foreign minister by Ariel Sharon. He challenged Sharon for the leadership of the Likud party, but failed to oust him. After the 2003 elections, Netanyahu became finance minister in the coalition newly formed by Sharon. As finance minister he introduced a controversial economic plan to restore Israel’s economy from its low point during the al-Aqsa Intifada. The plan involved a move towards more liberalizing the market.

In 2004, Netanyahu threatened to resign unless the Gaza Disengagement Plan was put to a referendum. He resigned on August 9, 2005, shortly before the Israeli cabinet voted to approve the initial phase of the Disengagement Plan. In September 2005, he tried to hold early primaries for the Likud leadership while the party held the office of prime minister. Likud rejected this initiative.

Following Sharon’s withdrawal from Likud, Netanyahu was elected head of Likud on December 20, 2005 winning 47% of the vote. Following the March 2006 Knesset elections Netanyahu became leader of the opposition when Likud came third after Kadima and Labor. He was reelected as chairman of Likud on August 17, 2007.

On July 31, 2008, Netanyahu called for snap polls, because Ehud Olmert’s successor as head of Kadima would not automatically become prime minister.  Israeli law requires dissolution of the current government and formation of a coalition by the new leader before they can take over.

Since March 2009 serves as Israeli Prime Minister.

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