Happy Birthday, Mr. Prime Minister: A Special Day for a Special Man

“Like channeled water is the mind of the king in Hashem’s hand; He directs it to whatever He wishes.” Proverbs 21:1 (The Israel Bible™)

Without any fanfare, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu added another candle to his cake on Sunday and celebrated his 68th birthday. A quick look back reveals what made this remarkable man into the icon that is Israel’s  longest-serving prime minister.

Born in Tel Aviv less than one year after the country, he was the first Israeli prime minister born after the establishment of the State of Israel, and in many ways, Netanyahu embodies the history of modern Israel.

Elected four times, Netanyahu represents the power of democracy. First elected in an extremely close run-off against former Prime Minister Shimon Peres in 1996, he has served for 11 years, 222 days as of 21 October 2017 (his first term lasted three years and 18 days, and his second and current term has lasted eight years, 204 days). If Netanyahu serves continuously as Prime Minister on July 16, 2019, he will tie Ben-Gurion to become the longest-serving Prime Minister in Israel’s history. He will break that record for himself one day later on July 17, 2019.Netanyahu now becomes the 62nd longest-lasting continuous political leader in a democratic country (the leader to serve the longest continuously was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt). If he makes it to the next elections, he will make it to 21st place.

Israel has a compulsory draft, but Netanyahu went above and beyond the simple call of duty. Netanyahu joined the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) shortly after the Six-Day War in 1967, and became a team leader in the Sayeret Matkal special forces unit. Netanyahu took part in many missions and in Operation Isotope (1972), he was shot in the shoulder. Netanyahu fought on the front lines in the War of Attrition and the Yom Kippur War in 1973, taking part in special forces raids along the Suez Canal, and then leading a commando assault deep into Syrian territory.  Netanyahu achieved the rank of captain before being discharged.

Netanyahu is powerfully intellectual. He graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology with two degrees, a Bachelor of Science (SB) and Master of Science (SM) degree, a double-load that would normally take four years. Netanyahu completed the courses in only two and a half years, despite taking a break to fight in the Yom Kippur War, and while simultaneously completing a thesis in a graduate course at Harvard.

He also embodies Israel’s powerful ties to the U.S. Between 1956 and 1958, and again from 1963 to 1967, his family lived in the United States in Cheltenham Township, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia, where he attended and graduated from Cheltenham High School. To this day, he speaks fluent English, with a noticeable Philadelphia accent. He returned to the U.S. to serve as the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations (UN) from 1984 to 1988.

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