Netanyahu Runs as Israel's Strong Man

Reelection Rests on Simple Message to Electorate

Strong Man: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is campaigning hard on a simple message of strength.
Strong Man: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is campaigning hard on a simple message of strength.

By Reuters

Published January 14, 2013.
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The issue also dominates the conversation as he questions whether Western politicians, who may doubt a nuclear Iran would risk its own destruction by attacking Israel, fully understand the Islamic Republic’s religious leadership.

“They know it’s a very bad thing, but they need to understand the convulsive power of militant Islam…the cult of death, the ideological zeal,” he said in a meeting last year, before the election campaign started.

A stocky, imposing man, Netanyahu has regularly drawn parallels between Nazi Germany and modern-day Iran. On his well-stacked bookshelves, sit a number of biographies of Winston Churchill, a man Netanyahu says he admires because he realised the true dangers posed by Adolf Hitler before other leaders.

History matters to Netanyahu. His father, Benzion, was a renowned Zionist historian and a decisive influence on his son. A fervent believer in the idea of “Greater Israel”, he was opposed to any compromise with the nation’s enemies.

“Bibi is the son of an historian and if you want to understand him, you have to start there,” said one of the prime minister’s closest aides, who declined to be named.

It was thanks to his father’s teaching work in the United States that Netanyahu developed one of his important political tools - fluent English that he has used to great effect to woo influential audiences, notably in the U.S. Congress.

After studying at a U.S. high school, he returned to Israel for his military service. He served in the elite special forces - the same unit his charismatic brother fought and died in.

Yonatan became a national hero after he was killed in 1976 in a daring raid to free more than 100 Israelis being held by pro-Palestinian hijackers at Entebbe Airport, in Uganda.

Armchair psychoanalysts have suggested that the killing stoked a deep dislike of Palestinians in the young Netanyahu. What is certainly true is that Yonatan’s death helped propel Bibi into the limelight, from where he has rarely strayed.


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