What you need to know

More than a decade ago, then-Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered to launch a peace initiative with then-Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas as part of his planned second term in office. The offer wasn’t accepted by Abbas. Netanyahu remains in power today, and there’s no indication he’s offering another push to bring peace to the region.

Here are some top takeaways from Benjamen Netanyahu’s life:

Political connections: Netanyahu was born to Akiva Netanyahu and Rachel Harel in the West Bank settlement of Gush Etzion, a town built by the Netanyahu family around an excavation of a Jewish city referred to in the Bible as Beit HaMikdash. Benjamin Netanyahu was brought to the West Bank a few years before the 1967 Six-Day War. As a young man he worked at the archaeological site of Machpelah, near Bethlehem.

Netanyahu started working for a number of right-wing organizations and organizations linked to Zionism and elements of Zionism’s efforts to establish a Jewish State of Israel prior to 1972. He was founding director of Shavei Israel, a Jewish group that encourages returning Jewish settlers to Israel.

His father was chairman of the Zaken Shamir settlement, a kibbutz in the West Bank where Benjamin Netanyahu grew up and one of his father’s former employees was also the uncle of Netanyahu’s first wife.

In 1995, Netanyahu rejected a U.S. offer of concessions to the Palestinians, including full recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, in return for land in the West Bank and Gaza. In 2000, he was elected prime minister, and as such should have served a second term. But then-President Bill Clinton asked Israel to delay that election, which pushed out Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Barak had previously accepted a peace offer from then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and had agreed to make further concessions. Netanyahu’s government did not give in to Arafat, and in frustration Arafat boycotted elections for a Palestinian Authority, which won control. The United States, following Israel’s advice, brokered a ceasefire between Arafat and Israel and Palestinian armed groups began to withdraw from the West Bank. The negotiations then opened up in earnest after the 9/11 attacks, with the Americans handing over negotiations to the Europeans. But Netanyahu did not seek reelection after Ehud Barak, his predecessor, was re-elected in 2004. Barak lasted less than a year before resigning.

On the campaign trail: Israel has been plagued by criticism from U.S. officials over its treatment of Palestinian Arabs and over allegations of corruption. Netanyahu won the election in March 2009 by 6 percentage points, and then he went on to achieve a majority for himself in the Knesset in January 2011, with 77 seats out of 120. In May 2015, Netanyahu opposed a proposal for a bill that would have toughened Israel’s opposition to the Palestinians. Some in his government argued that it was not anti-Palestinian, but rather pro-Israel. Opposition to the measure led to a collapse of the government in December 2015 and Netanyahu became prime minister again, only to see his government damaged further by the worst scandals of his tenure: the police probe into his personal wealth, which eventually led to his arrest on suspicion of bribery, fraud and breach of trust; and the police investigation into corruption allegations regarding ties between one of Netanyahu’s sons and a wealthy businessman.

On his art collection: Benjamin Netanyahu has a painting of himself that he’s been in the habit of displaying in his official residence. Though Netanyahu did not say whether or not he owns the painting, he said: “I have one of my friends that I trust all my life. He has a house in Amona [a West Bank settlement that Israel recently agreed to evacuate] in which I feel very comfortable because his kids are doing so well. … It’s not a good place to hang a painting, but I don’t think the house is secure. It’s just a permanent transfer of my security problem.”

On his previous wife: In 1982, Netanyahu married Sara Netanyahu, who is a journalist for Israeli radio. They were divorced in 2013.

On his current wife, Brigitte: Netanyahu married Brigitte Ginor in 1995. Ginor is a retired French history professor who’s known for being a champion of women’s rights in the military.

On torture: Benjamin Netanyahu has long asserted that he instructed his intelligence service, Shin Bet, to respect the Geneva Conventions prohibiting torture and to limit interrogation techniques to guidelines determined by international law. He’s also argued that the CIA’s program of using a variety of harsh interrogation techniques used the same standard that Shin Bet followed. The CIA program was considered to be unethical and illegal under American law.

Leave a Comment