NETANYAHU, BINYAMIN (Bibi; 1949–), Israeli politician, prime minister in the years 1996–99. Netanyahu was born in Israel, to a Revisionist family, son of historian benzion netanyahu . He was raised in Jerusalem, and in Philadelphia where his family lived in 1956–58 and 1963–67. Netanyahu returned to Israel in 1967 to do his military service, reaching the rank of captain in the elite Sayyeret Matkal unit. He finished his military service in 1972, and then returned to the U.S., where he attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, receiving a bachelor's degree in architecture. While studying at MIT he returned to Israel to participate in the Yom Kippur War. He then went back to complete a master's degree in business administration, and considered doing a doctorate in political science. While in the U.S. Netanyahu changed his name to Benjamin Nitai and started working in the international consulting firm the Boston Consulting Group. In these years he was active in presenting information about Israel. After his brother Jonathan (Yonni) was killed in the course of the entebbe operation in July 1976, Netanyahu returned to Israel in 1978, and started advocating international action against terrorism. In 1980 he set up and headed the Jonathan Institute for the Study of Terror, which was named for his brother. He also started working as marketing manager for the Jerusalem-based furniture manufacturer Rim. Netanyahu's speaking skills and fluent English brought him to the attention of Israel's ambassador in Washington, moshe arens , who supported his appointment as minister plenipotentiary in the Israel Embassy in Washington, where he served from 1982 to 1984. In 1984–88 he served as Israel's ambassador to the United Nations. Inter alia, he got the UN archive to open its files on Nazi war criminals, and frequently appeared in the American media to explain Israel's positions. Netanyahu returned to Israel in time to run in the elections to the Twelfth Knesset on the Likud list. In the National Unity government he was appointed deputy minister for foreign affairs under Arens. After david levy succeeded Arens, Netanyahu was appointed deputy minister in the prime minister's office. During the first Gulf War he was one of Israel's leading spokesmen, and played a similar role in the Madrid Conference of October–November 1991. He was one of the staunch supporters of the direct election of the prime minister. After the Likud's electoral defeat in the elections to the Thirteenth Knesset in 1992, and Yitzhak shamir 's resignation from the Likud leadership, Netanyahu was elected chairman of the Likud in March 1993, despite a well-publicized scandal over an affair he had had. In the Thirteenth Knesset he served on the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, and headed the opposition to the Oslo process led by Prime Minister yitzhak rabin . Nevertheless, he supported the peace treaty with Jordan.   Netanyahu was accused by the left of having participated in the incitement against Rabin that led up to his assassination in November 1995. However, after convincing David Levy's Gesher party and raphael eitan 's Tzomet to run together in a joint list with the Likud in the elections to the Fourteenth Knesset in 1996, Netanyahu beat Shimon peres in the first direct election for prime minister, thus becoming Israel's first prime minister to be born after the establishment of the state. Netanyahu established a right of center–religious government, and soon after its establishment traveled to Washington, Cairo, and Amman, proclaiming that while Israel was committed to the peace process and the Oslo Accords, he would insist on the Palestinians' implementing all their undertakings, including the cancelation of the articles in the Palestine National Covenant that rejected Israel's right to exist, and putting an end to Palestinian terror against Israel. Netanyahu met with Palestinian leader yasser arafat in September 1996, signed the Hebron Memorandum in January 1997, and the Wye River Memorandum in November 1998. He offered Syria negotiations based on the concept "Lebanon first," and an Israeli withdrawal from the security zone in southern Lebanon as a prelude to talks on other issues. However, Syrian President Hafez el-Asad rejected the initiative. Netanyahu's government was characterized by a succession of scandals, some connected with his own political style, and others with various controversial decisions that he took, such as his choice of candidates for minister of justice and attorney general. Growing dissatisfaction with his leadership within the Likud led to several prominent members' leaving the party, while the partnership with Gesher and Tzomet fell apart. Finally, a slowdown in the economy and difficulties in getting the 1999 budget approved by the Knesset led Netanyahu to call for early elections to the Fifteenth Knesset. In the direct election for the prime minister held in May 1999, Netanyahu lost by a large margin to Labor's ehud barak . Rather than continue to lead the Likud in opposition, he decided to leave politics temporarily and engage in business and lecturing. Prior to the elections to the Sixteenth Knesset in January 2003 he returned to active politics and was reelected to the Knesset on the Likud list. In the government formed by Ariel sharon in 2003 he was appointed minister of finance, in which task he was forced to confront a deep economic recession. Pursuing an extreme neoliberal economic policy, Netanyahu managed to improve the performance of the economy, though at the cost of severe cuts in Israel's social welfare system and growing gaps between rich and poor. Netanyahu opposed Sharon's policy of disengagement from the Gaza Strip, and the dismantlement of settlements, but on October 26, 2004, failed in an effort to vote down the policy in the Knesset. He then threatened to resign from the government unless a referendum were held on the disengagement, but he finally lifted his threat due to pressure that he remain in the Ministry of Finance to see the 2005 budget through. Netanyahu finally resigned from the government on August 9, one week before the beginning of the evacuation of the settlements in gush katif and northern Samaria, before the 2006 budget was brought to the Knesset. His intention was to contend for the Likud leadership before the elections to the Seventeenth Knesset, a post he won in December 2005 after Sharon bolted the party to form Kadimah. He wrote Don Isaac Abravanel, Statesman and Philosopher (1982); Fighting Terrorism: How Democracies Can Defeat Domestic and International Terrorists (1995); and A Durable Peace: Israel and Its Place among the Nations (2000); he edited Terrorism: How the West Can Win (1986); and A Place Among the Nations: Israel and the World (1993). -BIBLIOGRAPHY: B. Kaspit, Netanyahu: The Road to Power (1998); N. Lochery, The Difficult Road to Peace: Netanyahu, Israel and the Middle East Peace Process (1999); R. Vardi, Bibi: Mi Atta Adoni Rosh ha-Memshalah? (1997); R. Gelbard, Shinui Emdot Manhigim be-Sikhsukh Kiyyumi u-Murkav: Binyamin Netanyahu (2003). (Susan Hattis Rolef (2nd ed.)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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