The Turbulent Life and Times of Benjamin Netanyahu

March 2020 9781787383272 680pp
Available as an eBook
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For many in Israel and elsewhere, Benjamin Netanyahu is anathema, an embarrassment; yet he continues to dominate Israeli public life. How can we explain his rise, his hold on Israeli politics, and his outsized role on the world’s stage?

In Bibi, Anshel Pfeffer reveals the formative influence of Netanyahu’s father and grandfather, who bequeathed to him a once-marginal brand of Zionism combining Jewish nationalism with religious traditionalism. In the Zionist enterprise, Netanyahu embodies the triumph of the underdogs over the secular liberals who founded the nation.

Netanyahu’s Israel is a hybrid of ancient phobia and high-tech hope; of tribalism and globalism — just like the man himself. We cannot understand Israel today without first understanding the man who leads it.


‘Anyone who seeks to understand [Netanyahu’s] mercurial rise and the way it has shaped modern Israel would do well to read this insightful biography by Anshel Pfeffer . . . a sober and erudite profile of a man who has made himself necessary to his country through sheer force of will.’  — The Sunday Times

‘This timely book . . . is essential — understand Bibi and you understand the times and how they came to be the times . . . superb.’ — The Times

‘Brisk, engaging biography of Benjamin Netanyahu by one of Israeli’s leading journalists and commentators.’ — Financial Times, ‘The Best Books to Understand the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict’

‘A compelling portrait of the first Israeli prime minister to be born after independence and who has grown up to loom over its political history.’ — The Times, ‘Eight Books to Understand the Israel-Palestine Conflict’

‘[Bibi] is exhaustively researched … Most damning is Pfeffer’s take on Netanyahu’s relations with leaders of authoritarian regimes.’ — The Guardian

‘Anshel Pfeffer’s biography is superbly timed . . . insightful and readable. . . Bibi, obsessed by hostile “left-wing” media, complained pre-emptively that this biography would be a “cartoon.” It is not: It fleshes out a superficially familiar and invariably quotable figure with a wealth of background information and analysis that provide necessary and, of course, often highly critical context.’ — The New York Times

‘A detailed, revealing, and shrewd biography that is packed with fascinating insights . . . taking full advantage of the author’s vantage point as a bilingual journalist, alive to the subtleties of both Israeli and diaspora Jewish life, it is for now the definitive portrait of Netanyahu.’ — The New York Review of Books

‘An evenhanded biography [that] reveals Netanyahu’s genius at reframing his own story.’ — The Washington Post

‘In Pfeffer’s skilled hands, a brisk, engaging history of Netanyahu . . . turns into a mirror for the country itself.’ — Financial Times

‘Riveting and passionately critical. . . a must-read for everyone who is interested in the undercurrents of today’s Israeli society.’ — The Economist

‘A work of searing insight that persuades with research rather than rhetoric . . . Bibi is biography at its most honest, most powerful.’ — The Spectator

‘This excellent biography . . . is a dark record of the astute helmsman of Israel’s recent history.’ – The Times Literary Supplement

‘Anshel Pfeffer has succeeded in the impossible. This is a page-turning biography of Benjamin Netanyahu that is scrupulously fair to his formidable political strengths yet unsparing of his multitude of flaws. His book has revelations in every chapter — especially regarding the formative part played by his father, his American years and his membership of an elite army corps. Most of all, perhaps, it’s a vivid portrait of Israeli politics over the seventy years of its existence — all it has been and everything it is now.’ — Simon Schama, author of Belonging: The Story of the Jews 1492–1900 

‘Excellent.’  Jewish Quarterly

Excellent . . . insightful and knowledgable.’ — The Tel Aviv Review of Books

‘This is a fascinating . . . account of Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarkable political longevity. . . superb.’— Australian Review of Books

‘An insightful examination of the most dominant figure in recent Israeli political history . . . both timely and much welcomed. . . . The picture Pfeffer paints of both Bibi and the Netanyahu family is a fascinating one, full of contradictions and paradoxes.’  Conatus News

‘Certain to elicit both consternation and praise, Anshel Pfeffer’s book is a fascinating exploration of the complex ideological and familial foundations that continue to shape the thinking and governing of the man who may soon become Israel’s longest serving Prime Minster. This is a book that will lead both Bibi’s friends as well as his foes to see him a new — and infinitely more nuanced — light.’ — Daniel Gordis, author of Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn

‘Benjamin Netanyahu has turned out to be much more than the temporary speed bump in Israeli politics his critics once imagined. In this lively and trenchant biography, Anshel Pfeffer explains why and how Bibi came to dominate and embody the changing face of the remarkable and divided nation he still leads.’ — Aaron David Miller, Vice President and Middle East Program Director at the Woodrow Wilson Center

‘Anshel Pfeffer has given us an understanding, even compassionate, portrait of Benjamin Netanyahu — the family, the formative experiences, the logic of his belligerent ideology — while keeping his distance from Netanyahu’s stances and exposing many of the unpleasant truths that lie beneath the surface Netanyahu works so hard to polish. Essential reading.’ — Bernard Avishai, author of The Hebrew Republic

‘Weaving together stories from Netanyahu’s time in America and Israel, and from his family history, military service, and political career, Anshel Pfeffer’s fascinating and insightful biography paints a portrait of the indomitable outsider who became Israel’s three-time prime minister. This riveting account illuminates the ways in which the man leading Israel today is both a product and a beneficiary of bitter divides that have shaped the nation’s politics from its earliest days.’ — Tamara Cofman Wittes, Senior Fellow in Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution


Anshel Pfeffer has covered Israeli politics and global affairs for two decades. He is a senior correspondent and columnist for Haaretz and the Israel correspondent for The Economist. He lives in Jerusalem.

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