The 9th and current Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, is set to surpass founding father David Ben-Gurion as the country’s longest-serving prime minister on Saturday, having notched up a list of diplomatic and economic successes.
The 69-year-old Netanyahu will have been Israel’s prime minister for a total of 4,876 days tomorrow, over 13 years, according to a calculation by the Israel Democracy Institute think tank.
He was first at the helm between 1996-1999, and then again since 2009.
His latest apparent victory in April elections turned sour after he failed to form a coalition government and opted to move towards new elections instead.
He faces the new general election on September 17 while under threat of possible corruption charges in the months ahead, including for allegedly receiving pricey cigars and champagne in return for favours.
Netanyahu’s legion of supporters in Israel point to what they see as his effective management of a small country in a volatile region, a series of diplomatic breakthroughs and the country’s growing economy.
His many critics say he has demonised political opponents and Israel’s Arab minority by embracing populism and has too often put his personal ambitions above the long-term good of the country.
He has sought to sideline Israel’s continuing occupation of Palestinian territory and has been backed in that strategy by US President Donald Trump’s administration, which has swung American policy firmly in Israel’s favour.
In tandem, Netanyahu has tried to leverage the common concerns of Israel and Gulf Arab states about Iran into improved ties in the region — and has had some success.
He has never been at a loss for words in describing what he sees as his achievements.
“We’ve proven that Israel can be turned from a small country that is situated in the corner of the Middle East into a major power in the world,” he told the strongly pro-Netanyahu Israel Hayom newspaper in an interview this week.
The popular image of the man he is now surpassing in some ways stands in sharp contrast to that of “Bibi”, Netanyahu’s nickname since childhood.