Israeli right-wing politician and diplomat. He was leader of the Likud (Consolidation) party 1993–99 and from 2005, and prime minister 1996–99 and from 2009. A hard-line politician, he replaced Yitzhak Shamir as Likud leader after the party's 1992 electoral defeat. Israel's first directly elected prime minister, he persistently frustrated progress in the Israel–Palestine peace process. He was foreign minister 2002–03 and finance minister 2003–05 in the governments of Ariel Sharon, but left over disagreements over the issue of disengagement from the Gaza Strip. He became Likud leader again in 2005 and prime minister after the 2009 general election, heading a coalition government which included the Labour Party. In June 2009, he declared a shift in his thinking on the Middle East peace process, when, for the first time, he endorsed the notion of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, so long as it was fully demilitarized and Jerusalem was undivided Israeli territory. He secured a third term as prime minister after the January 2013 general election.
Born in Tel Aviv, he went to university in the USA, studying at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard. He served in the Israeli embassy in Washington, DC, 1982–84 and was a principal representative at the United Nations in New York 1984–88. As deputy foreign minister in the Likud-led government of Shamir, he was the chief Israeli spokesperson in the 1991–92 Middle East peace talks. In late 1998, he was signatory to the Wye Accord, signed in the USA, that resulted from peace talks between the Israeli government and the Palestinians; nevertheless, he effectively managed to postpone the peace moves. In December 1998, following the parliament's vote, Netanyahu was forced to call an early election in 1999, and in May the Labour Party candidate, Ehud Barak, was elected prime minister.
Netanyahu and his wife were questioned by fraud investigators in September 1999 over allegations, which they denied, that he had misused public funds during his time in office. However, Israel's attorney-general announced in September 2000 that Netanyahu would not face trial on corruption charges because of lack of evidence. The decision opened the way for a political comeback, and when Ehud Barak announced his resignation in December, Netanyahu announced his candidacy for prime minister. However, Netanyahu linked his candidacy to a call for fresh general elections, and had to withdraw from the race in January 2001 when Shas, the Knesset's third-biggest party, decided to oppose this call.
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