Benjamin Netanyahu life and biography

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Benjamin Netanyahu biography

Date of birth : 1949-10-21
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Tel Aviv, Israel
Nationality : Israeli
Category : Politics
Last modified : 2010-07-22
Credited as : Politician, Prime Minister of Israel, World's political leader

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Benjamin Netanyahu, born October 21, 1949 in Tel Aviv, Israel is an Israeli Politician and the current Prime minister of Israel.

"We shall enter into negotiations on a permanent settlement, at which time our positions will become clear. At the moment I do not want to become involved in making declarations but in taking steps that will build trust."

The State of Israel is located on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, bounded by Lebanon to the north, Syria to the northeast, Jordan to the east and southeast, and Egypt to the southwest. An 18 km (11 mi.) strip of coastline along the Gulf of Aqaba gives Israel access to the Red Sea. Israel's boundaries were determined initially by armistice lines set following the country's war of independence in 1949; the area within these lines (the so-called "Green Line"), is 20,770 sq km (7,922 sq. mi.). Subsequent treaties with Egypt (1979) and Jordan (1994) established permanent international borders with those countries. The boundary with Lebanon, in contrast, remains defined by the 1949 armistice line, and that with Syria is currently determined by a ceasefire line set in 1974.

The population of Israel in July 1995 was 5,433,134. This figure included 5,291,834 Jews living anywhere under Israeli jurisdiction (including the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Golan Heights) and about 950,000 non-Jews (741,000 Muslims, 105,000 Christians and 102,000 Druze and members of other religious groups) living within the Green Line. An additional 1,319,991 non-Jews inhabited the West Bank, and 813,322 lived in the Gaza Strip. Israel's Jewish population has grown substantially since 1989 because of a large influx of immigrants from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia. Between 1990 and 1993 over half a million new immigrants entered the country.

Israel has a market economy, but the government intervenes heavily in all areas. Because of its limited natural resources, Israel must import much of its food, fuel supplies, and raw materials. Its historically tense relations with its neighbors have necessitated the importation of much military equipment, although it is widely hoped that the establishment of peace in the Middle East will reduce the need for such purchases. Exports include textiles, fruits (especially citrus), polished diamonds, pharmaceuticals, and advanced electronic equipment. Tourism is also a major export industry.

Israel exhibits a relatively high level of development, with literacy at over 90%, life expectancy at 78 years. Its 1993 per capita GDP was over $12,300, placing Israel 21st among 200 countries in the world. Since 1990 Israel's GDP growth rate has been one of the highest in the world.

The official languages of Israel are Hebrew and Arabic; English is widely spoken and serves as the principal medium of international communication. The monetary unit is the New Israeli Shekel (NIS), whose Constantly fluctuating value currently stands at 3.25=US$1.00 (6/96).

Political Background

The United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 of November 29, 1947 called for the partition of the former British territory of Palestine into a Jewish and a Palestinian Arab state. The Jews in the territory accepted the resolution; the Arabs did not. On May 14, 1948, when the last British troops left the country, Jewish leaders proclaimed the independence of the State of Israel, while local Arabs joined with the armies of Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Transjordan, and Iraq in an effort to destroy the new Jewish entity. Israel defended itself successfully, and in consequence of the 1949 armistice agreements extended its control to the area within the Green Line. Transjordan annexed the West Bank, and Egypt administered the Gaza Strip; the Palestinian Arab state never came into existence. Many Palestinian Arabs fled the country during the 1948 war and were prevented from returning afterwards.

In its Proclamation of Independence, Israel defined one of its purposes as the ingathering of Jews from all over the world into their historic homeland. In the first years after the state was established, more than a million Jews, survivors of the Nazi Holocaust from Europe and refugees from Arab countries in the Middle East and North Africa, came to settle in the new Jewish state. Israel faced the difficult task of integrating so many people of widely divergent backgrounds into a single society, while at the same time defending itself against neighbors who did not recognize its legitimacy.

Israel's leaders chose to accomplish these tasks through a multiparty parliamentary democracy. At least once every four years Israeli citizens over 18 years of age cast a vote for one of the country's numerous political parties vying for seats in the 120-member Knesset (parliament). The seats are allocated in proportion to the number of votes received by each party. In May 1996, eleven parties won Knesset seats. The largest vote-getter was the Labor Party, which was awarded 34 seats, while its main rival, the Likud (Unity) Party received 32 seats.

Reform legislation introduced in the 1990s decreed that beginning in 1996 the prime minister would be chosen by direct vote of the electorate. This marked the first time that Israeli voters in a countrywide election cast their ballots for a specific individual in addition to a party. The incumbent prime minister, Shimon Peres, was challenged by the leader of the Likud party, Binyamin Netanyahu. In an excruciatingly close election, Netanyahu barely defeated Peres, receiving 50.4% of the votes to 49.5% for Peres.

Personal Background

Binyamin Netanyahu was born in Tel Aviv on October 21, 1949. At 46 years of age he is the youngest person ever to serve as prime minister of Israel, the only prime minister to have been born after Israel achieved its independence, and only the second to have been born in a place that is now part of the independent state.

Netanyahu comes from a prominent family. His father, Benzion Netanyahu, is a well-known historian and editor who for many years was one of the leading intellectuals of the Zionist Revisionist Party, the forerunner of today's Likud. When Binyannin was a boy the Netanyahu family moved to Philadelphia, where his father became professor of Jewish history at Dropsie College. He graduated from a suburban Philadelphia high school in 1967 and returned the same year to Israel to serve in an elite army commando unit, Leaving the Israeli army in 1972, he entered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), earning a bachelor's degree in architecture and a master's degree in business administration. Upon leaving the university he worked for a consulting firm in the United States.

Netanyahu's life took a decisive turn in 1976, when his brother Yonatan (Jonathan) was killed while commanding the rescue of 83 airline passengers who had been hijacked to Entebbe Airport in Uganda. In memory of Yonatan the Netanyahu family established the Jonathan Institute for the study of terrorism, and Binyamin returned to Israel to conduct seminars under the Institute's auspices. In this capacity he came to the attention of Moshe Arens, a Likud member of the Knesset (and MIT alumnus). When Arens was named Israel's ambassador to the United States in 1982, he appointed Binyamin Netanyahu to the post of deputy chief of mission.

Rise to Power

Netanyahu first came to public prominence in Israel in 1984, when he was named Israel's ambassador to the United Nations. His presence in New York and his fluent, unaccented English made him a popular and f in the eyes of many Israelis f a highly effective spokesman for Israeli government policies abroad. His popularity in Israel was enhanced by his leading role in using the war crimes files in the UN archives for investigating suspected Nazi war criminals.

His widely-perceived success at the UN, his family ties to the Revisionist Party, and the patronage of Arens led to his assuming a Knesset seat as a member of Likud in 1988 and to his appointment as deputy foreign minister in the same year. In 1991 he became a deputy minister in the prime minister's office under Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. In this post he became a principal spokesman for the Israeli government during the Gulf War. He was a member of Israel's delegations to the Middle East Peace Conference that convened in Madrid in late 1991 and to the peace talks that followed during the next year in Washington.

In 1992 Likud was defeated at the polls; although he retained his Knesset seat, Netanyahu had to leave government office. Likud's electoral defeat, however, gave him the opportunity to challenge the established party leadership. Presenting himself as a young, vigorous leader with new ideas who could rebuild the party and lead it to victory in the next election, Netanyahu was chosen Likud chairman in 1993. He spent the next three years planning the strategy that was to lead him to his narrow victory in May 1996.

Such planning, however, had to cope regularly with a number of unexpected and potentially devastating events. In September 1993, the Labor prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, announced the stunning negotiation of a framework for peace with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), hitherto regarded as Israel's most implacable enemy. Netanyahu and Likud opposed the agreement with the PLO and tried to stimulate public protest against it. When an enraged opponent of the governments action assassinated Prime Minister Rabin on November 4, 1995, Netanyahu was widely blamed for having contributed lo the superheated public atmosphere that had led some to brand Rabin a traitor. In contrast, Rabin's successor, Shimon Peres, enjoyed a swell of public sympathy and support that lasted into early 1996.

Peres's lead eroded rapidly, however, in the wake of a series of four suicide bombings carried out by Palestinian opponents of the peace accords associated with the Islamic movement known as Hamas. He was perceived by many as an idealist whose eagerness for a peace settlement might induce him to make unacceptable compromises on security issues. In contrast, Netanyahu's association with the Jonathan Institute and his authorship of a book on fighting terrorism helped him to establish credibility as a person who could deal effectively with Hamas attacks.

Still, however, Netanyahu narrowly trailed Peres in opinion polls even until election day. Some Israelis expressed concern over the Likud candidate's relative lack of political experience. Some were troubled by what they perceived as a slick, media-oriented image that masked a lack of substance. In the end it appears that the margin of victory came from ultra-Orthodox Jewish voters, whose primary concerns involve augmenting government allocations for religious services and institutions.


Since assuming office, Netanyahu has given some indication that he may be strongly influenced by his American education. The new electoral law under which he won the prime ministership allows him in effect to preside over a presidential-style cabinet, in which the high degree of ministerial autonomy that characterized Israeli government in the past might be substantially diminished. The law also requires a special majority of 70 votes in the Knesset to pass a resolution of no confidence in the government and force new elections. As a result, Netanyahu may seek to establish a system of expert advisory councils parallel to the government ministries, similar to the system that exists in the United States. Already he has established a Council for National Security and a Council on Economic Policy. These bodies are expected to play a major role in the formulation of Israel's foreign and domestic policies.

Whether Netanyahu will be able to implement such a nontraditional system of government remains to be seen. Already he has encountered strong opposition from powerful veterans in his own party, who fear that the new system will take away their potential power bases in the government ministries. Some have suggested that Netanyahu might be forced to adhere to a more traditional style of administration. Others maintain, in contrast, that both his strength and his political savvy have been consistently underestimated.

Foreign and Domestic Policy

Netanyahu ran for prime minister on the Likud Party platform, which made continuing negotiations with the Palestinian Authority conditional upon annulment by the PLO "in an unequivocal manner the clauses in the Palestinian Charter that call for the destruction of Israel" and upon Palestinian cooperation in preventing "terror and incitement against Israel." It also explicitly ruled out the possibility that Israeli-Palestinian negotiations might eventually result in the establishment of an independent Palestinian state and declared that "the Jordan River shall be the eastern border of the State of Israel." While it pledged to pursue negotiations with Syria, it rejected in advance any Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights.

Many have perceived that these statements might lead in a number of different directions as Netanyahu and his government attempt to apply them to actual situations. For this reason some have ventured that Netanyahu might turn out to be a pragmatist and that the Likud Party platform will not provide a reliable long-term indicator of government foreign policy. Others have suggested that he might emerge as an uncompromising hardliner.

Regarding domestic policies, the Likud platform committed itself to a free-market economy, privatization of government enterprises, a reduction in personal income taxes, and a balanced budget. Netanyahu's government is expected to reduce the degree of government intervention in market operation. However, the government is committed to increase spending in a number of areas, including defense and the construction of settlements and infrastructure in the West Bank, and its coalition agreement with the orthodox Jewish parties will necessitate increased allocations for religious institutions. Hence, in order to obtain a balanced budget and reduce taxes, government spending is liable to be cut in other areas, including education, health, infrastructure development within the Green Line, and support for secular institutions. The Jewish religious establishment is expected to reassert a greater degree of influence over many aspects of public life.

Netanyahu was defeated in the 1999 election by Ehud Barak.

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