Benjamin Netanyahu: Israel PM plans fourth term

Image copyright Reuters Image caption Benjamin Netanyahu: Strongman who was young but was reluctant to compromise

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced he will seek a fourth term in office next year.

He was first elected as an opposition leader in 1996 and is the first Israeli PM to hold the post in a fourth term.

The 64-year-old former journalist has often been accused of being an unprincipled, tough-talking hardliner.

But Israeli commentator Gideon Levy says the elections may mark the beginning of the end of Netanyahu’s tumultuous premiership.

So who is this power hungry, methodical and successful politician?

Broadband, sex and education

Benjamin Netanyahu was born on 30 October 1946 in Jerusalem and raised in Tel Aviv.

He attended elite public schools before going on to win a degree in history from Hebrew University.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Benjamin Netanyahu was reportedly bullied by classmates over his sexuality

In 1977, he joined the Communications Ministry. His rise quickly saw him overseeing the building of Tel Aviv’s advanced optical fiber-optic networks and first privatised landline and mobile phone firms.

He was elected as a legislator in 1984 and entered the Israeli parliament in 1996.

Israel Radio personality Yair Lapid said the PM was enjoying his fourth term as it gave him “complete security”.

He said Mr Netanyahu had not ruled out a fourth term if he won a landslide next year and had plans to build a “nation-state of all the Jews” in the Middle East.

Mr Netanyahu was a strong advocate of the controversial law aimed at denying the Israeli state citizenship to Jews who are not Israeli citizens.

He has also insisted on building a large Jewish settlement in disputed Jerusalem even though it has alienated the US, one of Israel’s traditional allies.

Trouble at home and abroad

Mr Netanyahu has enjoyed solid support at home, enjoying a solid majority in parliament – 70 seats – since 2009.

But he has had a rocky relationship with many of his partners at the centre-right Likud party.

Image copyright EPA Image caption Controversial Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) is often accused of showing a partisan outlook

He suffered a series of scandals over his affairs and the use of government funds to pay for cigars and champagne.

But Netanyahu is also now dogged by several legal investigations that could eventually see him indicted on bribery and other corruption charges.

He called the snap elections in a bid to win a better political mandate ahead of the prospect of possible indictments, claims he has denied.

The final count of the December 2016 Jerusalem election showed that if there had been no legal investigations against the PM, he would be sure to win.

Netanyahu has been at loggerheads with US President Donald Trump over the Iran nuclear deal.

He clashed with Trump’s senior adviser, Jared Kushner, during the recent negotiations over Israel’s plan to build 2,600 homes in East Jerusalem.

The US administration has warned Israel that settlement building in areas claimed by the Palestinians could make a future peace deal more difficult to conclude.

Netanyahu was the youngest man ever elected prime minister at the age of 40 in 1996.

Before becoming PM, Netanyahu had an easy ride in the polls.

But that all changed when he was accused of corruption by two different police investigations, and he only narrowly survived a no-confidence vote in July 2015.

Whether he has enough support to be re-elected, though, remains to be seen.

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