Benjamin Netanyahu: who is Israeli Prime Minister? Controversies explained as PM admitted to hospital

The Israeli leader underwent an emergency surgery to fit a pacemaker ahead of a controversial vote on the country's judicial reforms 

Benjamin Netanyahu has served as Israeli prime minister in three separate terms. (Credit: Getty Images)Benjamin Netanyahu has served as Israeli prime minister in three separate terms. (Credit: Getty Images)
Benjamin Netanyahu has served as Israeli prime minister in three separate terms. (Credit: Getty Images)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has undergone emergency surgery ahead of an upcoming vote on controversial judicial reforms in the country.

The leader was admitted to hospital on Saturday evening (22 July) where he was fitted with a pacemaker. It comes amid speculation over his overall health after he was treated for dehydration in hospital around a week before the emergency surgery.

The pacemaker operation is said to have gone ahead "without any complications", with the Sheba Medical Centre stating that Netanyahu was "not in a life-threatening condition". In a video address to the country ahead of his surgery, the Prime Minister told the Israeli public that he was feeling "excellent" but was taking the advice of doctors for his condition.

It comes ahead of a controversial vote over judicial reforms in the country, which had sparked protests in cities such as Tel Aviv. The reforms, if voted through, will limit the Supreme Court's power, however one of the key details - the parliament's ability to overturn Supreme Court rulings - has been dropped following opposition to the plans.

The latest political saga is just one in the long career of the Israeli PM, who returned once again to the role under contentious circumstances last year. Here's everything you need to know about Benjamin Netanyahu.

Who is Benjamin Netenyahu?

Benjamin Netenyahu, 76, is the current Prime Minister of Israel. He has held the role three separate times, making him the longest-tenured leader in the country’s history. 

He was first appointed as Prime Minister from 1996 to 1999, and again from 2009 to 2021. He was re-elected in December 2022. 

Netanyahu is the leader of the right-wing Likud Party. Upon his election in 1996, he became the youngest person to take up the role and the first Israeli Prime Minister to be elected directly by popular vote. 

What controversies has Benjamin Netanyahu been involved in?

Throughout his first term in power, Netanyahu was involved in a number of scandals and controversies, including allegations of corruption. In 1997, Israeli police recommended that he be indicted on corruption charges for influence-peddling. 

In 1999, he faced more allegations of corruption. Netanyahu was accused of earning $100,000 worth of free services from a government contractor. However, he was not charged by Israel’s attorney general, who cited insufficient evidence. The scandals led to a defeat for Netanyahu’s party in the 1999 election. 

In a case launched in 2017, Netanyahu was accused of corruption once again and was questioned by police in two cases. 

In the first case, referred to as ‘Case 1000’, he was accused of obtaining inappropriate favours from businessmen. In the second case, known as ‘Case 2000’, he was accused of attempting to strike a deal with Arnon Mozes, the publisher of the Yedioth Ahronot newspaper group, in which Netanyahu allegedly promoted legislation which weakened the position of the newspaper group’s main competitor, Israel Hayom, in exchange for favourable coverage. 

He was indicted in 2019 on charges of bribery and fraud and officially charged almost one year later. The case is still ongoing with the original criminal trial date of 24 May 2022 being delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

If found guilty, Netanyahu could face up to ten years in prison for bribery charges and a maximum of three years for fraud and breach of trust.