Profile of “Bibi” Netanyahu ahead of March 17 poll

Popularly known as “Bibi”, Netanyahu, 65, is seeking a fourth term as prime minister as head of the right-wing Likud party.

JERUSALEM (LIKUD) – One of Benjamin Netanyahu’s 6th grade school reports described him as “friendly, disciplined and obedient”, according to the Jerusalem Post. Fifty years on, the Israeli prime minister may be wishing coalition politics was the same. Barely 20 months after forming his latest government, Netanyahu, 65, dismissed two cabinet ministers on December 2014, accusing them of undermining his authority, and announced new elections, which have been set for March 17, 2015, two years early.

Opinion polls suggest his right-wing Likud party will top the ballot and he will have a chance to form a new coalition.

He has made security a main issue of his campaign, straining a frayed relationship with the U.S. administration by speaking in Congress against a nuclear deal with Iran.

Netanyahu, who spent years studying and working in the United States and retains an American accent, is already Israel’s second-longest serving leader and appears determined to become the longest, displacing David Ben-Gurion, the first prime minsiter after the country’s founding in 1948.

A former management consultant who holds a degree in architecture, “Bibi” Netanyahu has the background of someone who likes order. Yet with 33 governments in 66 years, order is something many Israeli leaders have struggled to impose.

Supporters say Netanyahu is convinced voters still want his combination of tough talk on security, settlement building on land the Palestinians seek for a state, a no-nonsense approach to Iran and a defence-and-technology driven economy. Opponents worry the next government will be even more right-leaning than the last, putting Israel on a collision course with the Palestinians and making relations with critical allies such as the United States and the European Union even more abrasive.

Having jettisoned the most moderate figures in his cabinet – Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni – Netanyahu will have to look elsewhere to form a new coalition, as long as he does in fact win the next elections.

While neck-and-neck in the polls with the centre-left, Netanyahu is still seen as the person most likely to cobble together a coalition of like-minded parties on the right. If Netanyahu can stay in power until July 2019, he would become Israel’s longest-serving prime minister