He’s been dubbed King Bibi, the magician, the great survivor, and has held records as both the youngest and longest-serving prime minister of Israel.
But on Sunday, June 13, Benjamin Netanyahu was forced out as prime minister after a record 12-year consecutive term, his second in office.
To his supporters, he’s the tireless protector of modern-day Israel who helped turn the small nation into an economic powerhouse with outsized influence on the world stage. To his critics, he’s a divider who helped destroy the country’s democratic institutions while enabling the rise of extremists.
Without question, Netanyahu has left an indelible mark on Israel, changing and molding its path. And though he may be leaving the highest office for now, his influence is far from over.
“In some ways Israel is stronger after Netanyahu. Certainly Israel is economically much stronger and militarily … In other ways he leaves Israel much weaker in particular in the internal divisions.” said Natan Sachs, Director of the Brookings Institution’s Center for Middle East Policy. “After 12 years, he deserves credit and fault.”
Despite his years of dominance, Netanyahu rarely garnered a huge amount of Israeli popular support. He barely beat Shimon Peres in 1996 to become prime minister in one of the few direct elections for the position; in subsequent elections as the leader of Likud, his party never received more than 30% of the vote.
“Bibi’s genius is not so much how many votes he’s brought Likud, it’s how he’s built his coalitions,” said Anshel Pfeffer, a correspondent for The Economist and Haaretz who has written an extensive biography on Netanyahu titled “Bibi: The Turbulent Life and Times of Benjamin Netanyahu.”