Benjamin Netanyahu started his revolution of Israel 30 years ago, turning it into a strong, resilient and successful state. Following Yitzhak Shamir’s retirement from politics in the wake of his defeat by Yitzhak Rabin in the elections that had taken place on June 23, 1992, Netanyahu was elected to head the Likud in the primaries and lead the opposition.
Shamir was one of the founding fathers of Israel, among those who had fought for Israel’s Independence, and was also a founder of the Likud. Following his defeat, Shamir retired from politics.
Out of those 30 years, Netanyahu served 15 as prime minister, seven as opposition leader, and three as Foreign Minister and Minister of Finance. Arguably, the most important figure in the history of Israel. The ability to remain relevant for 30 years is extraordinary on any scale, both political and commercial.
I have had the privilege to work with Netanyahu. He is an extraordinary man in his intellectual abilities and wisdom. You can try to emulate him – unsuccessfully. Still, we can learn key lessons on staying relevant for 30 years.
Lesson 1: Paying a price
The first and most evident lesson is the willingness to pay a personal price for national achievements. Netanyahu could not have remained as relevant and strong as he is today without the achievements he has brought to Israel, fortifying its security and its economy, fighting indefatigably the Iranian threat and proving that peace can be made with Arab states, without first solving the conflict with the Palestinian Arabs.
Netanyahu is the one who made Israel’s economy, a small country in international relations, one of the most advanced and powerful economies in the world. Netanyahu turned the Israeli economy into a free-market economy, promoting competition, lowering prices and free trade lifting foreign exchange controls. He paid a personal price for this when he was Finance Minister. He made difficult economic decisions and thus dragged himself into opposition.
At the same time, Netanyahu led Israel to the best security decade Israel has ever known. As Prime Minister, he led an aggressive policy against the enemies of Israel, especially Iran. He paid a personal price for his relations with the United States. Still, thanks to his determined actions, both in the political arena and in military decisions, Iran does not have nuclear weapons to this day.
NETANYAHU HAS turned Israel into an emerging world power in the international arena. When Netanyahu said Israel would become a global cyber power, his political opponents mocked him. Today, Israel is a leader in the cyber field and is considered one of the world’s leading forces in high-tech.
Lesson 2: Innovation
The second is innovation. Netanyahu is the first to identify trends. If he was an advertiser, he would be a billionaire. Netanyahu was the first Israeli leader to understand the transition to multi-channel media and the first to use social networks. Whereas in 1992, there was only one television channel in Israel; whereas, currently there are a hundred outlets, more newspapers, many more radio stations and our social networks are thriving. Most importantly, he knows that the world moves forward constantly, and those who do not move ahead are left behind. So, he keeps reading and thinking about the next thing in policy and branding.
Lesson 3: Diligence
The third is diligence. The media likes to portray Netanyahu as a hedonist. The reality is quite the opposite. In the evenings, he usually sits at home and reads books. Book after book, writing down point after point. He does not sit and stare at the TV, meet with friends and chat. He is always focused, asking himself at any given moment what needs to be addressed now. And in between meetings, he reads more and more books. We often filmed videos for the campaign and in between, he read a book, uncomfortable with the waste of time. He reads everything, new and old. His curiosity is insatiable. He’s always catching up.
Lesson 4: Patience and strategic thinking
The fourth is patience and strategic thinking. Politics makes for a stressful environment. In one moment, you may think the whole world is collapsing on you. The biggest mistakes of politicians are made when they are in a hurry to elicit a response, under media and personal pressure. Netanyahu knows that patience pays off. I have seen him handling crises patiently. Sometimes, people ask where Netanyahu disappeared. He hasn’t disappeared. He just keeps quiet, waiting for the right time to make a move.
Lesson 5: Family
And finally, and no less importantly, comes family. When Netanyahu first became Israel’s Prime Minister, he had only been married a year, for the third time. This is his longest and a very successful marriage. That it took place in parallel with his political rise is no coincidence. In the modern world that concerns itself with achievement and with the individual, we may tend to forget the power of a strong, supportive family, of a loving wife and faithful children.
Netanyahu’s engine is his family. He is with them all the time, on every trip and they love him deeply because his mission is not only his own but also theirs. Without the powerful support of his family, it would have been impossible to survive 30 tough years. There are families of politicians that just wait for them to finish their job and come home. Not his family. They are passionate about his premiership. They understand its importance. They are his power engine.
The writer is founder of www.perception.media, a strategic adviser and creative director to world leaders.