Israeli diplomat and politician, prime minister of Israel (1996–99).
Born in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu was largely brought up and educated in the USA, acquiring a command of English and a deep understanding of American values and institutions. Compulsory service in the Israeli army led to a commission in an elite antiterrorist unit. He then returned to the USA to graduate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in architecture and business administration; from 1976 to 1978 he worked as a management consultant with the well-known Boston Consulting Group. After returning to Israel, Netanyahu was appointed director of the Jonathan Institute (1978–80), an antiterrorist research organization. In 1982 he was appointed deputy to the Israeli ambassador in Washington, DC, and from 1984 to 1988 he served as Israeli ambassador to the United Nations.
Elected to the Knesset for the first time in 1988, Netanyahu became deputy foreign minister and, in 1991, Yitzhak Shamir's spokesman during the Gulf War and a member of the Israeli delegation to the subsequent peace talks. In 1993 Netanyahu succeeded Shamir as leader of the right-wing Likud (Consolidation) party following its defeat at the 1992 elections. In opposition he became an outspoken critic of the peace process with the Palestinians set in motion by the outcome of the 1993 Oslo Accords. A resurgence of Islamist terrorism was an important factor in Netanyahu's victory in the 1996 elections and his subsequent appointment as prime minister at the head of a coalition government. He also assumed direct responsibility for the politically sensitive ministry of housing. Netanyahu's first year in office was marked by security tensions, both internally and with Syria, and by a narrow escape from a fraud indictment. In 1998 he angered right-wing Israeli's by signing (with Yassir Arafat) the latest agreement in the Middle East peace process, in which Israel agreed to hand over more territory in the West Bank to Palestinian control in return for increased security measures by the Palestinian Authority against Islamic terrorists. Netanyahu's major publications reflect his political preoccupations – A Place Among the Nations: Israel and the World (1993) and Fighting Terrorism (1996).