Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 9 December 2019

Benjamin Netanyahu becomes Israel's longest-serving premier

He has ruled the country for a total of 4,876 days, over 13 years, with a right-wing leadership many see as deeply divisive
(FILES) In this file photo taken on June 30, 2019, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem. Netanyahu is set to surpass founding father David Ben-Gurion as Israel's longest-serving prime minister, having notched up a list of diplomatic and economic successes but with right-wing leadership many see as deeply divisive. The 69-year-old Netanyahu on July 20 will have served as Israel's prime minister for a total of 4,876 days -- over 13 years, according to a calculation by the Israel Democracy Institute think tank. / AFP / POOL / Oded Balilty

Benjamin Netanyahu has become Israel's longest-ever serving prime minister, surpassing a record held by the country's founder.

He limped across the line, surviving an early election this year and several ongoing corruption scandals.

"Who's counting?" he said airily when asked about the career milestone during a conference.

He now faces another election in September after an inconclusive April result in which he failed to form a coalition. He is currently Israel's caretaker prime minister.

He became Israel's youngest-ever premier in 1996, serving until his defeat in a 1999 election. Re-elected in 2009, he extended his tenure through the ballot box in 2013 and 2015. He looks set to extend the record, with right-wing Israelis happy with his

To judge from his solid approval ratings, Mr Netanyahu, 69, has delivered what Israelis wants: a purring economy and relative security despite the collapse of peacemaking with the Palestinians and combustible fronts with Syria and Lebanon.

He has also rallied a rising Israeli right-wing with rhetoric against the country's Arab minority, and cut down potential political challengers with divide-and-conquer tactics.

That rhetoric was on show on Friday, the day that he matched the record, when he tweeted in support of his son Yair, sharing a speech in which his child says that Palestinians have no historic right to the land that is now modern-day Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

Israel's centre-left opposition, and many of its foreign friends, also worry that Mr Netanyahu has missed a chance to find a two-state deal with the Palestinians to safeguard the Jewish majority and democratic credentials of his country.

Mr Netanyahu's political strategy has included emulating Mr Trump in blunt social media attacks on his rivals that have underlined deep divisions within Israel society.

Much like Ben-Gurion, Mr Netanyahu has doubled as defence minister and bolstered the military as part of an uncompromising distrust of Israel's neighbours and a doctrine of self-reliance.

Updated: July 20, 2019 02:46 PM