Benjamin Netanyahu was born in 1949 in Tel Aviv and grew up in Jerusalem. His high school years were spent in the United States, where his father, the historian Benzion Netanyahu, taught and conducted historical research. Returning to Israel in 1967, Mr. Netanyahu enlisted in the IDF and served in an elite unit of the Israeli army, Sayeret Matkal. He took part in several operations, including the rescue of hostages in a hijacked Sabena airplane in 1972. In the same year, he was cited for outstanding operational command by General Mordechai Gur, Chief of Israel’s Northern Command. After his discharge from the IDF in 1972, Mr. Netanyahu served in the Yom Kippur War of 1973 and was promoted after the war to the rank of captain in the Reserves.
Mr. Netanyahu received a B.Sc. degree in Architecture and an M.Sc. in Business Management from MIT. He also studied political science at MIT and at Harvard University.
Between 1976 and 1982 Mr. Netanyahu worked in the private sector, first with the Boston Consulting Group, an international business consultancy, and then as a member of senior management position of Rim Industries in Jerusalem.
In 1979 and 1984 Mr. Netanyahu organized two international conferences that emphasized the need to fight terror groups and the regimes supporting them. US Secretary of State George Schultz has written that Mr. Netanyahu's public advocacy and books had a decisive influence in shaping American policy toward fighting terrorism.
In 1982, Mr. Netanyahu was appointed Deputy Chief of Mission at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, DC. From 1984 to 1988, he served as Israel's Ambassador to the UN, and became renowned for championing Israel's cause in the international arena. He successfully led the effort to declassify the United Nations archives on war crimes committed by Nazi Germany.
Returning to Israel in 1988, Mr. Netanyahu was elected to the Knesset on the Likud party list and was appointed Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. During the Gulf War he served as Israel's principal spokesman in the international media. In 1991 he participated in the Israeli delegation to the Madrid Peace Conference and in the first Strategic Cooperation talks between Israel and the United States.
In 1993 Mr. Netanyahu was elected Likud party chairman and served as Leader of the Opposition until being elected Prime Minister of Israel in 1996.
During his first term as Prime Minister, the number of terror attacks against Israel decreased dramatically. Mr. Netanyahu also advanced the peace process with the Palestinians, signing both the Hebron and Wye Accords. Mr. Netanyahu liberalized foreign currency regulations, accelerated privatization of government-owned companies and reduced the budget deficit. During his term in office, foreign investment reached record highs.
In 2002, after three years in the private sector, Mr. Netanyahu returned to politics, first as Minister of Foreign Affairs and then as Minister of Finance. He enacted sweeping economic reforms that helped pull Israel out of a deep recession and place it on a path of long-term growth. He controlled government spending, reformed the welfare system, cut tax rates, privatized major state-owned industries, reformed the pension and welfare systems and enacted a major capital market reform. Following these reforms, Israel enjoyed robust growth, lower unemployment and rapidly declining debt levels.
In 2009, Mr. Netanyahu was elected Prime Minister for the second time. He established a national unity government and forged a consensus within Israel on peace with the Palestinians by calling for a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state. He continued to overhaul Israel's economy by passing land reform, making major investments in the country's roads and railways and streamlining the country's planning and zoning bureaucracy. He enacted sweeping reforms in Israel's educational system, from higher education to free education from the age of three.
Mr. Netanyahu has written and edited the following books that appeared in Hebrew and English, with some also translated into Chinese, Russian, French, Arabic, Japanese and other languages:
Self-portrait of a Hero: The Letters of Jonathan Netanyahu (1963-1976), co-editor, with Iddo Netanyahu (1978)International Terrorism: Challenge and Response, editor (1979)Terrorism: How the West Can Win, editor (1987)A Place Among the Nations: Israel and the World (1992)Fighting Terrorism: How Democracies Can Defeat Domestic and International Terrorism (1996)
Mr. Netanyahu is married to Sara, a psychologist, and is the father of three. The Netanyahu family lives in Jerusalem.