Benjamin Netanyahu – soldier, diplomat and the ninth Prime Minister of the State of Israel – was born in Tel Aviv in 1949 and grew up in Jerusalem. He spent his adolescent years in the United States, where his father – a noted historian – taught Jewish history.
Returning to Israel in 1967 to fulfill his military obligations, Netanyahu volunteered for an elite commando unit of the IDF and participated in a number of daring operations, including the release of hostages from a hijacked Sabena Airlines aircraft at Ben-Gurion Airport, an operation in which he was wounded. He was discharged from the IDF after six years with the rank of captain. Netanyahu then studied at MIT in Boston and received a B.Sc. in architecture and an M.Sc. in Management Studies. He also studied political science at MIT and Harvard University. In 1976 he was employed by the Boston Consulting Group, an international business consulting firm, and later joined the management of Rim Industries in Jerusalem.
Much affected by the death of his eldest brother Yoni – who had fallen while commanding the 1976 Entebbe rescue operation to free the passengers of an Air France airliner held hostage in Uganda – Benjamin Netanyahu initiated and organized two international conferences on ways to combat international terrorism, in 1979 in Jerusalem and in 1984 in Washington. These forums attracted key political figures and opinion-makers in the international community.
In 1982 Netanyahu joined Israel’s diplomatic mission in the United States – serving for two years as Deputy Chief of Mission under then-ambassador Moshe Arens. He was also a member of the first delegation to the talks on strategic cooperation between Israel and the United States. In 1984, Netanyahu was appointed Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations and held this position for four years. An articulate speaker, forceful debater, and media-oriented diplomat, he played a key role in efforts to enhance Israel’s image and improve understanding of the country’s security needs among the “movers and shakers” in American public life.
Soon after returning to Israel in 1988, Benjamin Netanyahu entered the political arena and was elected a Member of Knesset by the Likud party and was appointed Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. He served in this position for four years, marked by the intifada; the 1991 Gulf War; and the Madrid Peace Conference, which initiated direct talks between Israel and her neighbors.
In 1993, Netanyahu was elected Chairman of the Likud Party and its candidate for Prime Minister. He led the political opposition in the period prior to and following the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin – a time characterized by volatile public debate on basic issues, sparked by controversy over ramifications of the Oslo agreements and escalating Palestinian terrorism.
In 1996, in the first direct elections of an Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu defeated the incumbent Labor candidate Shimon Peres, and became the ninth Prime Minister of the State of Israel, serving until 1999.
After the completion of his term as Prime Minister, Mr. Netanyahu served as a business consultant to Israeli high-tech companies and was a popular speaker on the global lecture circuit. In 2002 he returned to politics, first as Minister of Foreign Affairs (November 2002 until February 2003) and then as Minister of Finance, until August 2005. During the 17th Government of Israel, he served as the Head of the Opposition in the Knesset.
In February 2009, following the elections to the 18th Knesset, Benjamin Netanyahu was charged with forming the next government, and was sworn in as Prime Minister on March 31, 2009. As such, he also held the portfolios of the Minister of Economic Strategy, Minister of Health, and Minister for Senior Citizens, and as of December 18, 2012, Minister of Foreign Affairs.
On March 18, 2013, Netanyahu formed the 33rd Government of Israel.
Benjamin Netanyahu has written a number of books that appeared in Hebrew and English, with some also translated into Russian, French, Arabic, Japanese and other languages, among them Terrorism: How the West Can Win (editor, 1987); A Durable Peace: Israel and Its Place Among the Nations (1992); and Fighting Terrorism: How Democracies Can Defeat Domestic and International Terrorism (1996). He is married to Sara, a psychologist, and is a father of three.