Benjamin Netanyahu becomes Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, he is solidifying his place as the country’s greatest political survivor and the most dominant force in Israeli politics in his generation.
He has persevered through scandals, crises and conflicts, winning election after election even as the country grows more bitterly polarized. His supporters credit him with keeping Israel safe and prosperous, maintaining its Jewish character and boosting its standing internationally.
His opponents, with equally visceral emotion, claim he has dashed hopes for peace with the Palestinians, torn society apart with vicious attacks on minority Arabs and left-wing opponents, and infused politics with a culture of corruption.
But as the longevity of his 13-year rule is set to surpass that of Israel’s founding father David Ben-Gurion on July 20, all agree Netanyahu has left a permanent imprint on Israel.
“He thinks that he is the right guy in the right place. That he is the one who will save Israel and lead Israel to a safe haven,” said Aviv Bushinsky, a former Netanyahu aide. Israelis think that “things are good, so why should we change a winning horse,” he added.
Just as he is about to cross a milestone, Netanyahu faces perhaps his greatest political challenge yet. After failing to form a parliamentary majority following April elections, the country is holding a repeat vote on Sept. 17. The following month, he faces a hearing with Israel’s attorney general, who has recommended indicting Netanyahu on corruption charges. If formal charges are filed, Netanyahu could be forced to step aside.
In contrast to his predecessors, the 69-year-old hasn’t left his mark by winning a war or signing a peace accord. He has proudly resisted various peace initiatives and allowed West Bank settlements to flourish. The signature achievements most associated with him, such as combatting Iran’s nuclear program, covertly striking weapons shipments to Israel’s enemies and building a border fence to stop the flow of African migrants, had begun taking shape before he assumed office.