'Likud's Netanyahu is familiar on
television, but do the young and
middle-of-the-road voters trust him?
ERIC SILVER SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH NEWS
as Binyamin Netanyahu sold his
colleagues a marriage of conve-
nience or commitment? A few
weeks ago, he successfully argued
for a Likud merger with the right-
, wing Tsomet, led by the racuous
former Chief-of-Staff Rafael Eitan.
He did so by claiming to Likud col-
leagues that a private poll had
showed that the parties would win
more votes together than sepa-
rately in Israel's May 29 national
When skeptics, like potential ri-
val Dan Meridor, challenged this,
Mr. Netanyahu declined to show the fig-
ures. By then, his momentum had con-
summated a second union, this time with
the Likud defector, David Levy. And men-
tion of the private poll had disappeared.
Thus, the two alliances were revealed for
what they were: a willingness to pay heav-
ily for seats that would have gone to Likud
loyalists in return for a one-on-one fight
with Labor's Shimon Peres in the country's
first direct election for Prime Minister. Both
Messrs. Eitan and Levy were prime minis-
ter candidates before the mergers. In re-
turn for canceling their bids, their parties were
handed seven winnable seats on Likud's Knes-
At 46, Mr. Netanyahu is pugnacious, media-
smart and shameless. The mask of states-
manship that he donned after the suicide
bombings is starting to slip. He is rapidly re-
verting to the campaign populism of Menachem
Begin, the late Likud leader and king of Israeli
Despite an American accent and Madison Av-
enue style, "Bibi" was born in Tel-Aviv, the son
of an ultra-nationalist professor of Jewish his-
Eric Silver is a contributing writer to the
PHOTO BY GLE NN TRIEST
After the conflict, he studied management at the
tory. He grew up in the shadow of his older broth-
Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
er, Yonatan ("Yoni"), who was killed in 1976 lead-
In fact, he has spent almost half his adult life
ing the crack force that rescued the passengers
in the United States — first as a student, then
of a hijacked airliner in Entebbe.
(as a Likud political appointee) as number two
The younger Mr. Netanyahu served in the
at the Israeli embassy in Washington and
same commando unit. While not at En-
later as ambassador to the United Nations.
tebbe, he was one of the undercover fight- Binya min
ers who stormed a Sabena airliner Netany ahu: It was there that he made his name, honing
his sound bites and fighting Israel's corner
hijacked to Tel-Aviv four years earlier. In
during the 1982 invasion of Lebanon.
June, 1972, he slipped into Lebanon with heal ner.
Mr. Netanyahu returned to Israel in 1988
a clandestine patrol that snatched five se-
and entered parliament on the Likud tick-
nior Syrian officers touring the front line.
et. As Deputy Foreign Minister, he cut David
They were exchanged for 13 Israeli POWs.
Levy out of the diplomatic game, making a per-
Yoni made a career in the army. Bibi left af-
ter five years, but was recalled for the 1973 Yom
BIM page 80
Kippur War, when he was promoted captain.