FACTBOX-Five facts about Benjamin Netanyahu

Fri Feb 20, 2009 8:47am EST

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JERUSALEM Feb 20 (Reuters) - Benjamin Netanyahu was invited to form the next Israeli government on Friday after his Likud party finished second in last week's parliamentary election.

Here are some key facts:



* Netanyahu was born in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv on October 21, 1949, and grew up in Jerusalem. One of three sons, Netanyahu's father, Benzion, is a renowned Jewish historian and supporter of the late hawkish Zionist ideologue Zeev Jabotinsky. Netanyahu, married three times, has three children, an adult daughter with a former wife, and two sons with his current spouse, Sarah. They live in Jerusalem.



* Known by a boyhood nickname, Bibi, Netanyahu is the most fluent English speaker of Israel's politicians, having gone to high school in the United States where his father worked as a researcher and university lecturer. Netanyahu is also a graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he also earned a masters degree in business management.



* In 1967, Netanyahu joined the Israeli army and served in an elite commando unit, taking part in secret missions and a 1972 rescue of hostages on a hijacked Sabena airlines jet. He fought in a 1973 war and achieved the rank of captain before his discharge.



* Netanyahu entered politics after his brother Yonatan was killed while leading the 1976 raid to rescue hijacked Israeli hostages from Entebbe, Uganda. His first high-profile political assignment was Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, in 1984. He won a seat in parliament with the right-wing Likud party in 1988 and was also named deputy foreign minister.



* Though voicing objections to withdrawing from occupied land for peace, Netanyahu, as Israeli prime minister in 1996, pulled Israeli forces out of part of the West Bank town of Hebron under an interim peace accord. An early election triggered by a further U.S.-brokered deal with Palestinians ended his term in 1999. As finance minister in 2003, Netanyahu implemented market reforms credited with stimulating economic growth despite a Palestinian uprising. He quit his cabinet post in 2005 in protest against a Gaza withdrawal. (Jerusalem newsroom)

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