Jerusalem Post 50 Most Influential Jews: Number 2 - Benjamin Netanyahu

If Netanyahu finishes his current term that began last year – in fact, if he stays in office until July 5, 2019 – he will overtake David Ben-Gurion as Israel’s longest serving prime minister.

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October 4, 2016 03:09
3 minute read.
PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu. Is he a victim of unfair press?

PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu. Is he a victim of unfair press?. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

 
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Until that time comes when a Jew sits in the White House as president of the United States or in the Kremlin as the the president of Russia, it is hard to imagine any man in the world having more impact on the state and fate of the Jews around the world than the prime minister of Israel.

It is a status that comes with the job.

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And it is a status that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has enjoyed now – as of Rosh Hashana 5777 – for 10 years and 204 days. And counting.

If Netanyahu, 66, finishes his current term that began last year – in fact, if he stays in office until July 5, 2019 – he will overtake David Ben-Gurion as Israel’s longest serving prime minister.

His detractors will tell you this has been nearly 11 wasted years.

They will talk of over a decade of political intransigence, of walking-in-place, of turning the world sour on Israel, of harming ties with the United States, and of not solving the one issue that – in their mind – trumps everything else: the Palestinian conundrum.

Netanyahu, they will admit, is a master political survivor. But survival is not everything. Okay, so he might break Ben-Gurion’s record. So what? What does longevity mean, if you don’t do utilize the long years given?



But ask Netanyahu, and he will say – in fact, he does say – that he has done an enormous amount with those years, and that he has much to show for them. He’ll argue that the country – its military strength, it’s economy, it’s place in the world – has never been better, stronger. And he will take credit for much of it.

In his world view, only the strong can survive in this merciless region. So strength needs to be assured. That means, first and foremost, a strong military – with submarines, state-of-the-art fighter jets, missile and tunnel defense systems, and cyber security.

All that costs money. Lots of it. So for that you need a strong economy.

And, he will argue, under his baton – both in the 1990s during his first run at prime minister, as finance minister in the early 2000s, and now as prime minister again for the last seven years – he has put into motion numerous reforms that have changed the economy, allowing it to carry the weighty military burden. These reforms range from cutting child allowances, to liberalizing the foreign currency market, to the development of the offshore natural gas fields.

But in this interconnected world, a strong military and a humming economy is not enough. Nations to survive and thrive – even the strongest nations – need allies. He will talk about the flourishing new friendships in Asia and Africa, the strong public support in the US, the changing sands in Latin America, and the under-the-table ties with Arab neighbors nearby, to prove that Israel is anything but alone. And he will say that he, too, has had a big hand in bringing about that change.

Netanyahu, the son of a historian, has a good sense of history.

He understands the unique opportunity he has been given – from his awesome perch atop the Jewish people’s political pyramid for so long – to place his mark on history.

Indisputably he is leaving his mark, having an impact. But at this stage – before history renders its own judgement – whether that mark is mostly positive or negative remains very much in the eye of the beholder..

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