Another development of this period was the exacerbation of the Sunni-Shia divide in the region and the emergence of new Arab leaders like President Abdelfatta al-Sisi in Egypt and the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who were willing to see in Israel an ally against Iran, rather than the oppressor of the Palestinians. Netanyahu was quick to capitalize on these regional changes and discreetly built his ties to these rulers.
Meanwhile, on the wider global stage, another generational shift was taking place. Slowly, the impact of the 2008 global financial crisis, the backlash against globalization and the deeper national-identity crises of the post-Cold War period were beginning to effect political systems - bringing to the fore in many countries across the world leaders who were more to Netanyahu’s liking. The kind of leaders who wouldn’t pressure him on the Palestinian issue.
Benjamin Netanyahu was born in October 23, 1949, in Tel Aviv. Of the eleven men and one woman who have served as Prime Minister of Israel, he is still the only one to have been born after Israel’s independence. At sixty-nine, he shows no intention of leaving the political stage voluntarily. It seems so long ago, but he was once also Israel’s youngest-ever prime minister, first elected in 1996 at the age of 46.
Is Benjamin Netanyahu a populist leader inclined to authoritarianism?
There is no simple answer to that question. His father, Professor of history Benzion Netanyahu brought him up to be a member of the intellectual elite. He graduated from the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with a degree in architecture and masters in business. He was in the process of writing a PhD in political science at Harvard. He is a voracious reader, whiling away hours during Knesset debates with books on history, philosophy and economics.
But as a politician, not only is Netanyahu’s natural constituency made up of largely low-income, traditional and religious voters, most of whom have not gone to university, but he is adept at using the crudest populist and nationalist, often borderline racist, tactics to rally their support. In many ways he personifies the two different, contradictory strands of the Revisionist movement - of which today’s Likud party is the descendant.
When Zeev Jabotinsky, a Russian Zionist journalist, writer and poet, founded the Revisionist movement in 1925, it quickly established itself in opposition to three other prominent streams within Zionism. There were those on the left who believed that the Jews could return to their homeland and rebuild it alongside the current Arab majority. Mainstream, or political Zionists, didn’t believe in a binational state together with the local Arabs, but thought the best way to achieve Jewish statehood would be through international diplomacy. And there were "practical Zionists", who believed in creating “facts on the ground” through pioneering agricultural settlements, mainly Kibbutzim, in what was then Palestine.