End of the road for Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving PM

Rival politicians in Israel have formed a new government to remove Benjamin Netanyahu, the country’s longest-serving leader, from power.

After four parliamentary elections in two years, opposition leader Yair Lapid, a former TV news anchor, put together a coalition with Naftali Bennett, a former settler leader and hard-right religious nationalist who has called for  the annexation of most of the occupied West Bank.

On Sunday, the Knesset voted 60-59 to approve the new coalition government, ending Netanyahu’s 12-year rule as prime minister.

Early years

Currently on trial for corruption, Netanyahu was Israel’s most right-wing prime minister to date, and the first Israel-born politician to become leader.

The son of a “Revisionist Zionist” from Poland, Netanyahu traces some of his roots to Spain.

Born in Jaffa in 1949, Netanyahu grew up in Jerusalem and went to high school in the United States.

His mother, Tzila Segal, was an Israeli-born Jew and his father, Benzion Netanyahu, was a secular Jew from Poland.

His father changed his name from Benzion Mileikowsky to Benzion Netanyahu after he settled in Palestine.

Netanyahu’s father was one of the original Revisionist Zionists who believed that Israel should exist on both sides of the Jordan River, rejecting compromises with neighbouring Arab states.

In 1967, Benjamin Netanyahu joined the Israeli army and soon became an elite commando and served as captain during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.

Rise to power

In 1982, Netanyahu was appointed deputy chief of mission at the Israeli embassy in Washington. In 1984, he was appointed Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations.

In 1988, Netanyahu was appointed as deputy foreign minister in the cabinet of then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir.

Rising to the post of the right-wing Likud party chairman in 1993, Netanyahu orchestrated the party’s return to political power after its defeat in the 1992 election.

He assumed various roles under Israel’s foreign ministry until winning the 1996 elections. His first stint as prime minister lasted until 1999. Later, he also emerged victorious in the 2009, 2013 and 2015 polls.

Netanyahu lost the Likud leadership to Ariel Sharon but regained it after the latter left Likud to form the Kadima party in 2005.

To critics such as Yuval Diskin, the former head of Israel’s domestic intelligence organisation, Netanyahu holds an inflated sense of entitlement.

Diskin once said: “At play inside Netanyahu, in my opinion, is a mix of ideology, a deep sense that he is a prince of a ‘royal family’ from the Jerusalem elite, alongside insecurity and a deep fear of taking responsibility.”

To supporters, he is a strong spokesperson for Israel, willing to tell the public uncomfortable truths and able to stand up to enemies.

‘Three nos’

Netanyahu had a “three nos” mantra: No Palestinian state, no return of the Golan Heights to Syria and no discussion on the future status of Jerusalem.

Despite opposing most peace deals with the Palestinians, Netanyahu signed the Wye River Accords in 1998 with Yasser Arafat, then-president of the Palestinian National Authority.

His resignation in August 2005 as foreign minister came in protest against Sharon’s plan to disengage from Gaza, part of the Palestinian territory.


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