Benjamin Netanyahu was born in 1949 in Tel Aviv and grew up in Jerusalem. He spent his high school years in the US, where his father, historian Benzion Netanyahu, was doing research. Returning to Israel in 1967, Mr. Netanyahu enlisted in the IDF and served in an elite commando unit, Sayeret Matkal. He took part in a number of military operations, including the rescue of hostages in a high-jacked Sabena airplane in 1972. In the same year, he was cited for outstanding operational leadership by the late Major General Motta Gur. Discharged from the IDF in 1972, Mr. Netanyahu participated in the Yom Kippur War and reached the rank of captain.
Mr. Netanyahu received a B.Sc. degree in architecture and a M.Sc. in business management from MIT. He also studied political science at MIT and 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 in a senior management position at Rim Industries Ltd.
In 1979 and 1984 Mr. Netanyahu initiated two international conferences that emphasized the need to fight terrorist organizations and regimes that provide them support. US Secretary of State George Schultz wrote that Mr. Netanyahu's social activism and books had a decisive influence in shaping American policy on international terrorism.
In 1982 Mr. Netanyahu assumed the position of deputy chief of mission at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, DC. In 1984 he was appointed Israel's ambassador to the UN, a position in which he served for four years. During this time he became renowned as a tireless champion of Israel's cause in the international arena. As such, he led the effort for declassification of the United Nations archive on 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 representative in the international arena. In 1991, he was a senior member of the Israeli delegation to the Madrid peace conference and as such, participated in the first strategic cooperation program between Israel and the US.
In 1993 Mr. Netanyahu was elected Likud party chairman and served as head of opposition until his election to Prime Minister of Israel in 1996.
During his term as Prime Minister, Mr. Netanyahu implemented policy that combined fighting terror with advancement of the peace process. Its cornerstone was the conclusion of well-measured agreements with the Palestinians that insisted on reciprocity. During his three year term the number of terror attacks drastically decreased.
In the economic realm, Mr. Netanyahu led the liberalization of foreign currency regulations, accelerated privatization of government-owned companies and reduced budget deficit. During his term in office, the scope of foreign investment in Israeli high-tech industry reached billions of dollars per year.
After the completion of his term as Prime Minister, Mr. Netanyahu served as a business consultant to Israeli high-tech companies and was a popular speaker on the global lecture circuit.
In 2002 Mr. Netanyahu returned to politics, first as Minister of Foreign Affairs and then, in the course of 2003, as Minister of Finance. He initiated policies that encouraged growth by reducing the public sector and strengthened the private sector. They included the reduction of government expenses, tax cuts, transition from welfare to work, breakup of monopolies, resumption of privatization and introduction of pension reform. These steps, praised by the US administration, credit rating companies and the IMF, put an end to economic decline, lowered unemployment and spurred growth. An Israeli economy that was shrinking by about 1% each year starting in 2001 grew by 4.2% in 2004.
Mr. Netanyahu has written a number of books that appeared in Hebrew and English, with some also translated into Russian, French, Arabic, Japanese and other languages:
Self-portrait of a Hero: The Letters of Jonathan Netanyahu (1963-1976) – editor, together with brother Ido Netanyahu (1978)
International Terrorism: Challenge and Response – editor (1979)
Terrorism: How the West Can Win – editor (1987)
A Durable Peace : Israel and Its Place Among the Nations (1992)
Fighting Terrorism: How Democracies Can Defeat Domestic and International Terrorism (1996)
Mr. Netanyahu is married to Sara, a psychologist, and is a father of three. The Netanyahu family lives in Jerusalem