Who is Benjamin 'Bibi' Netanyahu, Israel's returning prime minister?

Mr Netanyahu is the country's longest-serving prime minister and a former commando

Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the Likud party, at a polling station in Jerusalem on Tuesday. Bloomberg
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Israel's new prime minister is not unfamiliar with the position. Benjamin Netanyahu, who is also known as Bibi, made a comeback over a year after he left the office following a 12-year stint.

Mr Netanyahu, 72, has formed a new government — the most right wing in the Israel's history — after the fifth national elections in four years in November.

The victory for Mr Netanyahu's Likud party also comes as he is facing criminal proceedings over a corruption in a case that has been dragging on for years. He has pleaded not guilty to bribery, breach of trust and fraud.

Still, as Israel's longest-serving prime minister, he has had proponents who credit him with bringing economic prosperity to the country and critics who accuse him of stifling hopes for peace with the Palestinians.

“I think his legacy will be his success in making sure that any ray of hope to achieve peace based on two states along the 1967 border is blocked,” Palestinian official Saeb Erekat once said.

Who is Benjamin Netanyahu?

Mr Netanyahu was born in 1949 and is the son of a Jewish historian.

Although Tel Aviv is his birthplace, he was raised in Jerusalem and then the US before returning to Israel in the pivotal year of 1967, when Israel occupied the West Bank, as a conscript in the Israeli army. He later served in a commando unit.

During his time in the military, Mr Netanyahu was injured and discharged six years into his service with the rank of captain before returning to the US to complete his education.

He graduated from MIT with a degree in architecture and then earned a master's degree in management.

Mr Netanyahu then made a career shift from the private sphere to the public eye when he was elected for one term in 1996, capitalising on opposing the Oslo accords.

He was defeated in the polls three years later.

From there, he became finance minister in the early 2000s, cutting taxes and limiting privileges for Israel's ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.

Mr Netanyahu was then re-elected as prime minister in 2009, and served for a decade.

An outspoken and bi-lingual official, Mr Netanyahu has made bold statements against Iran and is thought of as a right-wing supporter of armed action, perhaps due to his background as a military veteran.

Updated: December 22, 2022, 12:02 PM