October 21, 1949
Benjamin Netanyahu, the ninth Prime Minister of Israel, is born in Tel Aviv. Although he spent a good portion of his childhood in Philadelphia, Netanyahu returned to Israel in 1967 to fulfill his service in the IDF, eventually serving in the elite Sayeret Maktal unit until 1972.
Following his army service, Netanyahu returned to the United States where he attended MIT, interrupting his studies to go back to Israel to participate in the October 1973 Yom Kippur War. He completed his degrees and remained in Boston where he worked as a consultant. After his brother Yonatan was killed during the 1976 rescue in Entebbe, he returned to Israel in 1978 and began advocating for action against global terrorism.
His command of the English language from his years living in the United States brought him to the attention of many in the political arena, and in 1982 he began serving as a staff member in the Israeli Embassy in Washington DC. From 1984-1988 he was Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations. During this period, he was frequently used as a speaker to defend and promote Israel in the American media.
Elected as a Likud Knesset member in 1988 and as chairman of the Likud party in 1993, he was an outspoken critic of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the Oslo peace process with the Palestinians. In 1996 Netanyahu defeated incumbent Shimon Peres and became Prime Minister.
Despite his earlier opposition to Oslo and negotiations with the Palestinians, Netanyahu tries negotiating with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat while insisting that the Palestinians be held to implementing the security aspects of the agreements they had signed. Plagued by a series of scandals involving himself and some of his ministers, he is forced to call for new elections in 1999 where he was soundly defeated by Ehud Barak. He leaves politics but returns to the Knesset in 2002 and becomes Minister of Foreign Affairs and then Minister of Finance under Ariel Sharon before resigning from the government over Israel’s unilateral 2005 Disengagement from Gaza.
When Ariel Sharon left the Likud party to found Kadima, Netanyahu once again become Likud chairperson. He maintained his chairmanship despite a poor showing by Likud in the 2006 elections. In 2009, he becomes Prime Minister again and is reelected in 2013. In 2021, following the fourth election in two years, Netanyahu becomes head of the opposition when Likud is displaced by a broad coalition led by Naftali Bennett of the New Right Party and Yair Lapid of the Yesh Atid Party.