Cheltenham High School Hall of Fame

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Benjamin  Netanyahu

class of 1967
inducted in 1999

Benjamin Netanyahu

Prime Minister of Israel

Born in Tel Aviv in 1949, Benjamin Netanyahu came to the United States at the age of 13. Netanyahu attended Cheltenham High School, and impressed teachers and fellow students with his academic brilliance and his strong convictions. In June 1967, when tensions between Egypt and Israel erupted into what is now known as the Six-Day War, Netanyahu and several of his classmates missed their graduation ceremony to help in the war effort in Israel. Netanyahu served for five years as an officer in an elite paratrooper unit of the Israel Defense Forces, participating in many successful anti-terrorist missions and eventually reaching the rank of captain.

Netanyahu returned to the
United States to complete his education at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, earning a B.S. in architecture in 1974 and a M.S. in management studies in 1976. Following the death of his brother Jonathan in the July 1976 mission to rescue hostages at Uganda's Entebbe Airport, Benjamin co-founded the Jonathan Institute, a Jerusalem-based foundation researching terrorism. Netanyahu organized the institute's International Conference on International Terrorism in 1979, the event which first thrust Netanyahu into the world spotlight. As part of his tireless work to combat terrorism, Netanyahu organized a second International Conference in 1984 and has authored and edited such books as Terrorism: How the West Can Win (1986), International Terrorism: Challenge and Response (1991), and Fighting Terrorism (1995). Former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz credited Netanyahu with playing a central role in shaping American policy towards terrorism during the 1980's.

Netanyahu was appointed the Deputy Chief of
Mission of the Israeli Embassy in the United States in 1982. From 1984 to 1988, Netanyahu served as Israel's ambassador to the United Nations. In 1988, Netanyahu returned to Israel, immediately beginning his rapid ascent in Israeli politics. A member of the right-wing Likud Party, he was elected to the 12th Knesset and was soon appointed Deputy Foreign Minister. Netanyahu's face was a familiar sight on ABC's Nightline and CNN's Larry King Live at the time of the Gulf War, during which he served as Israel's principal representative in the international arena.

In March 1993, Netanyahu was elected chairman of the Likud Party. His criticism of Prime Minister Shimon Peres voiced the concerns of many Israelis who felt that too much was being yielded to the PLO in order to gain peace. In the nation's first direct election of its leader, Benjamin Netanyahu was elected Prime Minister of Israel in 1996, winning by less than one percent of the vote. His term of office was marked by division within the Likud Party and within Israeli society in general. After three years of Netanyahu's hard-line opposition to the Palestinians, the majority of Israelis were eager for the peace process to move forward.

In May 1999, Netanyahu was soundly defeated in his bid for re-election by Labor Party candidate Ehud Barak. In a career unparalleled in Israeli history, Netanyahu climbed rapidly to the top by combining a tenacious idealism with an American understanding of media. At 46 years of age, Benjamin Netanyahu became the first Prime Minister under 60 ever to have been elected in
Israel. Following the 1999 election, Netanyahu resigned from the Knesset and retired from politics. He now plans to lecture extensively in the United States.