On this day: Benjamin Netanyahu’s birthday

October 21 1949: Benjamin Netanyahu is born

By Jennifer Lipman, October 21, 2010

The ninth prime minister of Israel, now serving a second term in office.

Born in Tel Aviv, after a childhood in Jerusalem and time in the United States as a teenager, Benjmain Netanyahu returned to Israel in 1967 and joined the army. He went on to serve as a member of the elite Matkal unit, helping in operations including the Sabena Airlines hostage rescue – a mission in which he was wounded. As a reservist he fought in the Yom Kippur and was made a captain.

After his time in the army the man who is now known widely as “Bibi” studied at MIT and Harvard, then worked as a management consultant. Following the death of his brother Yoni in the Entebbe mission, he was involved in the international debate over how to combat terrorist organisations throughout the 1970s and 1980s. In 1982 he was made the deputy chief of mission at the Israeli Embassy in Washington.

In 1984 he was named as Israel's ambassador to the UN, and four years later he stood successfully to become a Likud MK. He rose through the ranks of the party and when Likud won power in the 1996 election, following the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, he became Israeli prime minister – defeating the now president Shimon Peres.

He stayed in office until 1999, when he was defated by the Labour candidate Ehud Barak. Despite a temporary retirement from political life, in 2002 he went back into politics, elected as prime minister again last year.

A controversial choice for many, his time has seen relations with Turkey sour over the flotilla clash and the resumption of direct Middle East peace talks. Hee surprised critics by agreeing to a settlement building freeze, but has angered them by not extending it.

The approval of a contentious citizenship bill by Israel’s cabinet this month once again means Benjamin Netanyahu is making headlines around the world.

What the JC said about a Bibi-Barak deal:Though they have been political rivals for the past 15 years, Mr Netanyahu and Mr Barak have always got along well on a personal level. Mr Netanyahu was a young officer in the elite Sayeret Matkal in the early 1970s, when Mr Barak commanded the unit. Over the past two years, Mr Barak as defence minister, invited Mr Netanyahu to his office for regular briefings and the Likud leader has made no secret of his preference for keeping Mr Barak in post. Likud and Labour are certainly awkward bedfellows, but the two leaders implicitly understand each other. Over recent weeks, Labour members feared that had the party voted against the coalition agreement, Mr Barak would have defected and joined Mr Netanyahu’s government on his own.

See more from the JC archives here

    Last updated: 5:33pm, October 21 2010