The Rise of Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu

To some, Benjamin Netanyahu is a beloved leader who has consistently put their safety and security first.  But to others, he is a despised ruler who has shown a flagrant disregard for international, and potentially domestic, laws. But who is Bibi Netanyahu really?

Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu was born in Tel Aviv, Israel in 1949. In 1963, the Netanyahus moved to the United States after Benzion, his father, accepted an academic post in Pennsylvania. The young Netanyahu attended Cheltenham High School, located in what was then a Jewish enclave in the suburbs of Philadelphia.

Eventually, just days before his high school graduation ceremony, he returned to Israel to serve in the IDF, or Israeli Defense Forces—and Bibi thrived in the military. He would go back and forth between the US and Israel for some years after.

His political career started to take off around 1982. A family friend of the Netanyahus, Moshe Arens, was named the Israeli ambassador to the United States. And just like that, Netanyahu went from furniture company to foreign affairs. He was asked to be Arens’ deputy at the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C.

Netanyahu’s American accent set him apart and made him an ideal voice of the Israeli government on American television. Bibi eventually went on to become Israel’s prime minister.

In February 2019, Israel’s Attorney General announced his intention to indict Netanyahu on bribery and fraud  charges. He won his most recent election despite the three separate corruption cases against him, making this his fifth term as the Israeli prime minister.

Netanyahu has spent decades in the public eye, and has rarely needed to compromise to achieve his political goals. But this started to change in the run-up to the last election, when corruption charges threatened his political position.

 So, who really is Netanyahu and how did he get his start?