Profile: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is the son of Benzion Netanyahu, who was one of the founders of the Israeli Labour Party and is now regarded as a failed politician.

In the 1970s the 62-year-old said he would study in the US and begin the political career he left abruptly at 18.

He successfully succeeded his father in the 1997 race to become prime minister.

The issue of peace with the Palestinians caused the 1997 election to be called. Israel’s peace negotiator Uri Savir, killed by a Palestinian gunman, had defected to the Zionist Union, the new centrist party.

In 2006 the leader of the Likud Party, Mr Netanyahu, joined the coalition government and led his party to a stunning defeat of the leaders of the two main Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah.

The 2005 Israeli-Palestinian disengagement from the Gaza Strip led to a major deterioration in the Palestinian security services.

There were concerns that a reduction in violence would be wiped out by a radical fringe, and more than two thousand Palestinian citizens of Israel quit their home to move to the West Bank, which has since become an enclave.

In a 2006 poll, a majority of Israelis said they would like Mr Netanyahu to run in the next general election. If he did, he would have the support of more than 75% of the Jewish voters and double that for the Arab and Muslim voters, said the University of Haifa, one of Israel’s oldest universities.

It published a poll in January saying that Mr Netanyahu would win the next general election in a re-run of the 2006 contest, against Tzipi Livni.

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