May 31

This Day in History

General Interest

May 31, 1996:

Netanyahu elected prime minister of Israel

In what was regarded as a setback for the Middle East peace process, Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres is narrowly defeated in national elections by Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu. Peres, leader of the Labor Party, became prime minister in 1995 after Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a right-wing Jewish extremist.

Netanyahu, who promised to be tough on terrorism and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, was at 47 the youngest prime minister elected in the country's history. Born in Tel Aviv in 1949, he served in the Israel Defense Forces and during the 1980s was Israel's ambassador to the United Nations. In 1988, he was elected to the Israeli parliament and served as deputy minister of foreign affairs from 1988 to 1991. In 1993, he became the Likud leader and three years later Israeli prime minister.

On May 18, 1999, after three years as prime minister, a stalled peace process, and epidemic political in-fighting within his cabinet led to his electoral defeat by Labor challenger Ehud Barak. During his concession speech that evening, Netanyahu also resigned as Likud Party leader.

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