Also found in: Dictionary, Wikipedia.
Netanyahu, Benjamin or Binyamin (bēnˈyəmēnˌ nĕtənyäˈho͞o), 1949–, Israeli diplomat and politician, prime minister of Israel (1996–99, 2009–), b. Tel Aviv. A member of the conservative Likud party, the self-assured Netanyahu, known universally in Israel as “BiBi, attended high school in the United States, where his father was a history professor. He was an officer in an elite Israeli commando unit from 1967 to 1972 and later studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (B.Sc. 1974, M.Sc. 1976). Returning to Israel in 1978, he became active in politics and served as Israel's UN representative (1984–88). First elected to Israel's parliament in 1988, he became deputy foreign minister (1988–91) and deputy prime minister (1991–92). During this period he earned a reputation for American-style media savvy.
As leader (1993–99) of the Likud party, Netanyahu was largely responsible for engineering its return to political power after its 1992 electoral defeat. An opponent of the peace policies espoused by Israel's Labor government, he was criticized for cultivating Jewish extremist support after the 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Narrowly elected in May, 1996, he became Israel's youngest prime minister, promising a tough stance on terrorism. His tenure was marked by difficult peace talks with the Palestinians. Corruption scandals in his cabinet and strong reactions to his personality contributed to his May, 1999, loss to One Israel (Labor) party leader Ehud Barak. Subsequently, Netanyahu served under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as foreign minister (2002–3) and as finance minister (2003–5), but resigned and unsuccessfully challenged (2005) Sharon for the Likud leadership when Israel withdrew its settlers and forces from the Gaza Strip. When Sharon subsequently left Likud, Netanyahu became party leader; the party did poorly in the 2006 elections. A better showing in the 2009 elections enabled him to become prime minister of a largely right-wing coalition government in Apr., 2009; the centrist Kadima party joined the coalition in 2012. Despite Likud alliance loses, he remained prime minister after the 2013 elections, this time heading a center-right coalition, but the government only lasted until Dec., 2014. New elections in 2015 resulted in a Likud plurality, and Netanyahu formed a largely right-wing coalition government in May; he served as defense minister as well from Nov., 2018. In 2018 he faced a series of police corruption investigations, and in 2019 the attorney general charged him with bribery and other offenses. His wife, accused of fraud and breach of trust in a separate case, pleaded guilty in 2019 to misusing state funds. Likud won pluralities in inconclusive elections in Apr. and Sept., 2019, and no government was formed. After the Mar., 2020, election also was inconclusive, he and opposition leader Benny Gantz agreed to form a government, but it collapsed in Dec., 2020. In June 2021, Netanyahu was replaced by his former aide, Naftali Bennett, who assembled a coalition of eight different parties to narrowly defeat the prime minister, winning by one vote in the Israeli parliament.