Benjamin Netanyahu just became Israel‘s longest-serving PM, sweeping the title from founding father and first post-independence leader, the legendary David Ben-Gurion.
As of July 21 2019, the man nicknamed ‘King Bibi’ spent 4,867 days – over 13 years in office to surpass that record.
Mr Netanyahu won his first election in 1996, becoming Israel’s youngest-ever PM at the age of 46. He is also the first head of state who was born after independence in 1948.
King Bibi is a gifted orator in both English and Hebrew – Having grown up in Philadelphia, you can notice how his tough-guy Philly accent slips out whenever he gets angry!
He has an impressive military background: Netanyahu served in the badass Sayeret Matkal special-forces unit, as did his brothers, Yonatan and Iddo. The death of his brother Yonatan at the daring 1976 raid on Entebbe Airport in Uganda had a profound effect upon him. Taking the mantle inherently construed by his father, longtime scholar, professor and Holocaust historian Benzion Netanyahu, Bibi proves that he is one tough fighter.
In 1972, Ehud Barak, then commander of Sayeret Matkal Hostage rescue team lead a squad that included none other than a young Bibi, to neutralize Black September hijackers who held 90 passengers hostage aboard an airliner at the then-called Lod Airport, Germany. The team struck like lightning disguised as maintenance staff. Netanyahu was shot in the arm by friendly fire, by fellow IDF comrade Marko Ashkenazi when he whacked a hijacker in the face with the butt of his rifle, causing a bullet to lodge in Bibi’s bicep.
Today, his former comrade Barak is his biggest rival in the political arena. Only in movies do 2 people fighting on the front lines become rulers of a country!
In his history buff father’s words “Jewish history is a history of Holocausts.” His mother, Tzali insisted that he speak with an American accent, forcing him to touch his teeth with his tongue while saying “the.”
In recent decades, Israeli politics has been dominated by the Likud party, founded on the philosophy of Ze’ev Jabotinksy, the man Benzion Netanyahu once went to America to serve as secretary for, and whose vision he carried on after Jabotinsky’s death. A far-cry from the left-wing, secular Jews who founded Israel, Netanyahu has been up to date with global currents and for better or worse, the right-wing, global nationalist movement is the dominant ideology in the Jewish state,
Even though Israel is the only country today that was founded by lawyers and not military commanders, the military culture that emerged as a survival mechanism in its modern history has changed its political scene since independence in 1948.
This has made Revisionist Zionism the penultimate survival ideology that keeps Jewish identity alive. Even through left-wing Zionists do not like Netanyahu, they have to grudgingly accept his positives and move forward the way right-wing Zionists in the 40s and 50s once put aside their differences to work with David Ben-Gurion to stay alive.
In the first three years as PM, Netanyahu succeeded in building a solid political foundation. In 1999 he lost to Ehud Barak (who lasted little more than one and a half years). The aftermath of the Lebanese civil war and emerging conflict with Shia Hezbollah rather than Sunni Arabs who were Israel’s biggest regional enemy defined this era.
He later returned to politics, serving as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Finance in the government of Ariel Sharon but he would eventually resign over disagreements regarding the Gaza disengagement plan in 2005 : The political foundation however, helped him retake the premiership again in 2009.
Even though most American Jews (who by many estimates outnumber Israeli Jews) continue to vote Democrat and lean more left-wing/liberal, the more right-wing Netanyahu hasn’t yielded to pressure from this diaspora community to engage in ‘Land for peace.’
Many iconic moments pepper his career including him confronting President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran in a brazen speech to Congress in 2014; Netanyahu debunked conventional wisdom which dictates that an Israeli leader cannot survive without bending to a sitting US President.
Since Trump’s election in 2016, Netanyahu has enjoyed unprecedented backing, drawing praise and criticism alike. President Trump recently abandoned the traditional US role as a middleman, which it has played since the 1956 Suez crisis and in a move of Biblical proportions, moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Many right-wing leaders followed suit in solidarity.
In contrast to his predecessors, the 69-year-old Netanyahu hasn’t left an imprint by winning wars or signing peace accords. Instead, he has vehemently resisted various snake-oil infused truce initiatives and allowed West Bank settlements to remain – this has seen mixed results from Zionists and anti-Zionists alike who have differing views on what is best for Jewish survival.
Some achievements of his tenure, such as combatting Iran’s nuclear program, covertly striking weapons shipments to Israel’s enemies and building a border fence to stop the flow of African refugees, had begun even before he assumed office.
He has made friends with many Sunni Muslim countries, which a mere decade ago did not even recognize its legitimacy – this includes Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Sudan. Bibi even made trips to Oman and Chad. His relationship with right-wing leaders globally from India’s Narendra Modi, to Italy’s Matteo Salvini and Brazil’s Bolsonaro defines an era where neo-liberalism and right-wing conservatives are at constant loggerheads in every aspect of life from Facebook to the election scene. King Bibi has picked his side and is consistent.
As he stood at the UN, addressing world leaders in 2017, he told them to “Read the Bible” and see for themselves from historic lens that all the prophets of the world’s Christian and Muslim majority were Jews – and to understand that the soul of the Jewish people is attached to their ancestral homeland, no matter how many lies and distortions of history the reincarnated ever-changing ideology anti-Semites cook up.
And so, the US embassy was moved to Israel’s historic capital from the days of King Solomon despite global outrage. Despite criticism, scandals, allegations of corruption on his and his wife’s part, his son’s tweets….Israel is one nation whose survival is always hanging in the balance and the fact that he has kept this nation alive despite conflict in neighboring Syria, Lebanon and Egypt. As Jews in the West face violence and anti-Semitic attacks from White extremists, far-leftists and Muslim radicals — all spectrums pretty much, Israel has continued to remain as life insurance for Jews under his tenure. And in the face of such adversity, his left-wing rivals must put aside difference if their common goal is securing a future, like the Zionists of yesteryear did.
And like David, Solomon and Abraham to name a handful who he channeled at the UN on the eve of the embassy move, military men who become rulers eventually are always flawed individuals who can guide us through hard times.
We also see an era where Evangelical Christians in the West and Sunni Muslims in the gulf states replacing Catholics as Zionist’s biggest religious allies, and King Bibi has overseen yet another major change in Israel’s relationship with the world.
Netanyahu now finds himself poised in a political battle for the Knesset as he seeks to win the September election and maybe form his fifth government and continue the millennia old, ever-evolving continuity of the soul of his country.