by: Ilse Posselt, BFP News Correspondent
Calling Israel “no ordinary country” can certainly be considered an understatement. The strip of land perched on the edge of the Middle East serves as the stage against which numerous biblical events played out—and the backdrop for ancient prophecy fulfilled today. The building blocks of the modern state are the promises spoken by the God of Israel, who pledged the land as an everlasting heritage to the children of Abraham. Those who call the Promised Land home have returned from the four corners of the world, according to the Almighty’s age-old pledge.
With such an extraordinary past, present and promised future, it stands to reason that Israel requires extraordinary men and women to lead the nation. David Ben Gurion, Golda Meir, Menachem Begin and Shimon Peres all fall into this category. Yet no list of exceptional Israeli leaders would be complete without a spot for current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
Netanyahu, or Bibi, as he is known throughout Israel, is the Jewish state’s ninth prime minister and currently serves his fourth non-consecutive term leading the nation. Husband of Sara, father of Noa, Avner and Yair, chairman of Israel’s Likud political party, decorated Israel Defense Forces (IDF) hero, war veteran and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) graduate, Netanyahu has worn many hats, achieved many firsts and filled many roles during his 68 years.
In 1996, Netanyahu became Israel’s youngest prime minister and the first to be born after the modern state was founded in 1948. Nearly 20 years later in 2015, he became the first leader to be sworn in as Israeli prime minister four times. He is known for meeting and inking an agreement with notorious Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in search of peace. In recent years, he has expressed his skepticism regarding the land-for-peace approach and often gives his seal of approval for construction in Judea and Samaria. As prime minister, he has seen his nation through three wars with Hamas to ensure quiet on Israel’s southern border. His approach to peaceful coexistence with the Palestinians is direct negotiations with no preconditions and he has invited Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to sit down for such talks—leader to leader—on a number of occasions. Two years ago he took a solitary and often unpopular stand, speaking out against the possibility of a nuclear Islamic Republic, while other international leaders sang the accord’s praises.
Let us take a look at the life journey of Israel’s prime minister.
Bibi was born in Tel Aviv in 1949—one year after the rebirth of the State of Israel. Following a childhood in Jerusalem, the Netanyahus moved to the US, where Bibi’s father, a renowned Jewish historian, worked as a professor. Aged 18, Netanyahu returned to Israel in 1967 and was drafted into the army shortly after the Six Day War. He spent five years in the IDF, serving as captain in the elite Sayeret Matkal unit. He participated in various missions, including the 1972 rescue of a hijacked passenger jet and fought on the frontlines during the War of Attrition and the Yom Kippur War.
Following his military service, Netanyahu returned to the US, earned a bachelors and masters degree from MIT and started work as an economic consultant in Boston. In 1976, tragedy struck the Netanyahu family when Bibi’s brother, Yonatan, was killed during a mission to rescue Israeli hostages from a hijacked airliner in Entebbe, Uganda. Netanyahu has spoken out on numerous occasions about the profound impact his brother’s death had on the family. Receiving the tragic news was “the worst moment of my life.”
Netanyahu became involved in international counterterrorism efforts, a move which was instrumental in launching his political career. In 1982, a young Bibi became the deputy chief of mission at the Israeli embassy in Washington and was appointed as the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations (UN) two years later.
Netanyahu’s life in Israeli politics started in 1988, when he won a seat in the Knesset (parliament) and served as deputy foreign minister. Five years later, he was elected as the chairman of the Likud party—and its candidate for prime minister. Likud won the 1996 general elections and Bibi became the ninth—and youngest ever—prime minister of the State of Israel.
Following a defeat in 1999, Netanyahu shifted his attentions to the private sector, only to return to the political arena three years later. After a stint as foreign affairs minister and then finance minister, Bibi withdrew from the government over the Gaza disengagement plan.
Following another return to Israeli politics in 2005, Bibi once again won the Likud leadership and was sworn in for a second term as prime minister in 2009. A victory in the 2013 elections made him the second Israeli leader, after David Ben Gurion, to be selected for a third term. Then, in March 2015, Netanyahu became prime minister yet again, making him the only person to have filled this position four times.
Netanyahu is a decorated soldier, a brilliant negotiator and a skilled politician. Yet he is adamant that Israel’s legitimacy does not stem from military victories or political maneuvering. “The Bible is the foundation of our existence,” he said during a 2012 Bible study session at his home in Jerusalem.
The prime minister is also well aware that the nation he leads is an extraordinary one, where the promises of an Almighty God serve as the building blocks of history, cemented by the Keeper of Israel’s faithfulness. “In our time the biblical prophecies are being realized,” Netanyahu told the UN General Assembly in 2014. “As the prophet Amos said, ‘They shall rebuild ruined cities and inhabit them. And I will plant them upon their soil never to be uprooted again’ (Amos 9:15). Ladies and gentlemen, the people of Israel have come home never to be uprooted again.”
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