2. Benjamin Netanyahu

Israel’s modern-day king

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
There is one number that, more than any other, encapsulates Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s influence on Israel and – by extension – on the Jewish people: 17.8%.
That is the amount of time over the course of Israel’s 70-plus years of existence that Netanyahu has been at the country’s helm.
As of today, Netanyahu has served 12 years and 180 days in two terms. Only David Ben Gurion has served longer, with his tenure as prime minister – also spread over two terms – reaching 13 years and 127 days, or 312 days more than Netanyahu. In American terms, the years Netanyahu has spent in office would be equivalent to having one US president for just shy of 43 years.
All told, the two men have led this country for about 37% of its existence. And just as Ben-Gurion left his mark on the early years of the state – both in terms of military, diplomatic, and economic policy – so too has Netanyahu left a similar imprint on the later years of the country.
One thing truly striking about Netanyahu is his resilience. Rosh Hashanah rolled in last year with the prime minister laboring under a heavy burden of legal woes – from Case 1000, (the “lavish gifts” affair), to 2000 (Yediot Ahronot-Israel Hayom), 3000 (submarines), and 4000 (Bezek-Walla).
All those legal woes led to talks that the end of the Bibi era was nigh.
Yet it wasn’t. On the contrary, poll after poll shows that were elections held today – even with all the investigations against the prime minister in high gear – Netanyahu would win again, and handily.
Because with all the kvetching and harping and complaining, Israelis – as they enter 5779 – are doing pretty well.
Sure, there are huge collective challenges, but the economy is good, and personal security for most people – though not at the level of what it may be in Norway – is pretty good. Netanyahu can rightfully take credit for much of this, which is why he can enter the coming year – sure to be an election year – fairly secure that barring any dramatic unforeseen development, he will be back on this list as Israel’s prime minister next year as well.