May 31, 2010 / 6:45 PM / 9 years ago

Factbox: Netanyahu no stranger to crises

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - The death of at least 10 foreign activists in a raid by Israeli naval commandos on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla was the latest incident to sour Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political career.

Following are some of the crises that have plagued him through two terms as Israel’s leader.

EXTRAMARITAL AFFAIR

* 1993 - In a race for the leadership of the right-wing Likud party, Netanyahu admits on television to an extramarital affair, believing a rival politician was about to disclose the infidelity. The politician said he had no such plans and many in Israel believe that Netanyahu panicked.

JERUSALEM TUNNEL

* 1996 - In his first term as prime minister, Netanyahu orders the opening of an archaeological tunnel under a site in Jerusalem’s walled Old City that is holy to both Muslims and Jews. The decision sparked violence in which more than a dozen Israelis and some 70 Palestinians were killed. As was the case with the interception of the Gaza aid ships, Netanyahu was on an overseas visit when the bloodshed began.

BOTCHED ASSASSINATION

* 1997 - Israeli Mossad agents botch the poisoning of Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in Jordan. Two Mossad assassins are captured by Jordanian authorities. They are sent home after Israel frees jailed Hamas co-founder Ahmed Yassin. Israel also has to give Jordan an antidote to save Meshaal’s life. The agents had entered Jordan on forged Canadian passports, which sparked a diplomatic spat with Ottowa. As prime minister, Netanyahu was criticized at home for ordering the assassination.

DUBAI HIT

* March-May 2010 - Britain and Australia expel Israeli diplomats after concluding that Israel had forged British and Australian passports used by assassins to kill a Hamas commander in Dubai. Israel has neither confirmed or denied a role in the killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in his hotel room in January, 10 months into Netanyahu’s second term as prime minister. Britain said such misuse of British passports was “intolerable.” Australia said it was not the behavior of “a nation with whom we have had such a close, friendly and supportive relationship.”

SETTLEMENTS ROW

* March 2010 - Israel announces plans, during visit by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, to build 1,600 homes for Jews in an area of the West Bank annexed by Israel. The announcement triggers unusually harsh criticism from the United States in March. Washington said it damaged its efforts to revive the Middle East peace process. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the project was an insult. Netanyahu says he was blindsided by planning bureaucrats and apologizes to Biden.

GAZA FLOTILLA DEATHS

* Hours after Israeli commandos storm the flotilla in an operation in which 10 international activists are killed, Netanyahu cuts short a visit to Canada and cancels planned talks on Tuesday with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington.

Writing by Joseph Nasr; Editing by Louise Ireland

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