(Israel Twitter)Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu בִּנְיָמִין "בִּיבִּי" נְתַנְיָהוּ Binyamin Netanyahu; born 21 October 1949) is the ninth and current Prime Minister of Israel, serving since March 2009. Netanyahu also serves as the current Chairman of the Likud Party, as a Knesset member, as the Health Minister of Israel, as the Pensioner Affairs Minister of Israel and as the Economic Strategy Minister of Israel.
A graduate of MIT and Harvard, Netanyahu is the first and only Israeli prime minister born in Israel after the State of Israel's foundation. Netanyahu joined the Israeli Defense Forces in 1967 where he served as a commander in the elite Sayeret Matkal commando unit, taking part in many missions including the hostages rescue mission from the hijacked Sabena Flight 571 in 1972 (coincidentally under the leadership of Ehud Barak). He fought in the Yom Kippur War in 1973 and achieved the rank of captain before being discharged. Netanyahu served as the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations from 1984 to 1988, member of the Likud Party, and was Prime Minister from June 1996 to July 1999. Netanyahu was Foreign Minister (2002–2003) and Finance Minister (2003–August 2005) in Ariel Sharon's governments, but he departed over disagreements regarding the Gaza Disengagement Plan. He retook the Likud leadership on 20 December 2005. In the 2006 election, Likud did poorly, winning twelve seats. In December 2006, Netanyahu became the official Opposition Leader in the Knesset and Chairman of the Likud Party. In August 2007, he retained the Likud leadership by beating Moshe Feiglin in party elections. Following the 10 February 2009 parliamentary election, in which Likud placed second and right-wing parties won a majority, Netanyahu formed a coalition government.
The Obama administration has repeatedly pressured the Israeli government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to freeze the growth of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
In March 2009 US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton traveled to Israel.She warned that Israeli settlements and demolition of Arab homes in East Jerusalem were "unhelpful" to the peace process. Clinton also voiced support for the establishment of a Palestinian state—a solution not endorsed by Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu, with whom she had earlier pledged the United States' cooperation. Upon the arrival of President Obama administration's special envoy, George Mitchell, Netanyahu said that any furtherance of negotiations with the Palestinians will be conditioned on the Palestinians recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, as this issue had not been sufficiently clarified.
During 19 May 2009 meeting with US President Barack Obama at the White House, Obama said a two state solution was a priority and called for settlement growth to be frozen, while Netanyahu refused to support the creation of a Palestinian state and stated that Israel has the right to continue settlements.
During President Obama's Cairo speech on June 4, 2009 in which Obama addressed the Muslim world Obama stated, among other things, that "The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements". "This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop." Following Obama's Cairo speech Netanyahu immediately called a special government meeting. On June 14, ten days after Obama's Cairo speech, Netanyahu gave a speech at Bar-Ilan University in which he endorsed, for the first time, a "Demilitarized Palestinian State", after two months of refusing to commit to anything other than a self-ruling autonomy when coming into office. The speech was widely seen as a response to Obama's speech.