A biography of the steely Israeli prime minister that underscores his relentless, seemingly emotionless competitive drive.
As a translation from the Hebrew, this account of Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu’s career is nicely fluent. Longtime Israeli journalist and newscaster Caspit, a senior columnist for Ma’ariv, Israeli’s leading daily, is unafraid of criticizing the extreme right-wing views and single-minded ambition of this problematic public figure. Several themes emerge from the author’s chronicle of Netanyahu’s formative years in Jerusalem. One of the most prominent is the extreme reverence his family had to pay to his studious, humorless father, Benzion, a scholar inculcated in the Revisionist Zionist ideology: right-wing, leaning toward the American Republicans, and uncompromising toward Palestinians, all of which eventually formed the backbone of the Likud Party and encapsulated his son’s own views. Caspit touchingly emphasizes Netanyahu’s devotion to his older brother, Yoni, a shining, handsome role model and elite Israel Defense Forces commando like Bibi who was cut down tragically during the Entebbe Operation in 1976. Perhaps the most important lifelong influence on Netanyahu was his early education in America (MIT and Harvard), which taught him to speak flawless English and, as his career in politics grew, court rich American Jews into bankrolling rightist Jewish interests and his own campaigns. With his good looks and pedigree, he became the “perfect poster boy for the Jewish community” and gradually worked his way into the Israeli embassy and then head of the Likud Party. He would be elected prime minister four times (1996, 2006, 2013, 2015), matching David Ben-Gurion’s record. Caspit focuses on Netanyahu’s ongoing stormy relationship with Washington, D.C., as he has firmly maintained that “Israel and America were equal players in the international arena” and seemed mystified whenever this was challenged—e.g., from President Barack Obama over Iran nuclear concessions.
A highly readable portrait of an enigmatic politician.