Benjamin Netanyahu Is Simply a Winner

The following is an excerpt from an article by Sara Honig in The Jerusalem Post of Friday, May 31.

Binyamin Netanyahu, it is said [inside the Likud], is simply a winner. Even those who were ready to knife him after the elections and who had not been prominent members of the Bibi fan club now point to his impressive winning streak and liken him to the proverbial cat, who, no matter how you throw it, lands on all fours.

They recall that Netanyahu came out of nowhere into the political arena. A protege of Moshe Arens, the well-educated, good-looking young man with American English became the country's UN ambassador. When he returned from New York he went on to do unexpectedly well in the gruelling Likud Knesset primaries - far better than other ambassadors and holders of high office did.

After the Likud's loss in the 1992 elections, Netanyahu set out to conquer the Likud. On the face of it he had no chance against the veteran power-brokers and the party princes. He waged an American-style campaign unlike anything seen before and despite the acrimony of the fight, he won by a landslide.

He was decidedly unloved by his more moderate opponents and reviled the unforgiving foes, but he held on. He inherited a disintegrating party with no functioning institutions and a huge financial debt. While political writers either ignored or derided him, he reformed the Likud, gave it a new constitution, elected working forums, and pulled it out of the red. The Likud was no longer an unmanageable party. He could ram unpopular decisions through and put order in the house and he ran a successful membership drive and party primaries.

Rabin's assassination set him back 30 percentage points in the polls and he was dismissed as an also-ran. But with the same quiet determination that he overhauled the Likud, he kept making small moves and scoring small successes, such as attracting new stars to the party to pull it out of its depression and removing the rival candidacies of Ariel Sharon, Rafael Eitan and David Levy.

He set up the parliamentary bloc with Tsomet and Gesher despite his party's trepidations and started very slowly climbing back up in the polls despite critics within, media hostility, and massive American, Arab, and European backing for Peres. Making a clever play for the political center, patiently and steadily Netanyahu gained on Peres.

If ever there was a comeback kid, it was said in the Likud yesterday (even by erstwhile foes eager now to be counted as Netanyahu's best friends), his nickname is Bibi.

(C) 1996 The Jerusalem Post, SOURCE: IRIS (Information Regarding Israel's Security)

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