For a look back at the long career of Israel’s polarizing prime minister, click here.
James Baker temporarily banned him from the State Department. Madeleine Albright described him as an Israeli Newt Gingrich (and it wasn't a compliment). Bill Clinton emerged from his first meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu in 1996 (then serving his first term as prime minister) more than a little annoyed by his brash self-confidence. "Who's the fucking superpower here?" Clinton exclaimed to aides.
Netanyahu is the first Israeli premier to trigger truly bipartisan recoil.
But love or hate him, we'd better get used to him. The youngest premier in Israel's history when first elected in 1996, and only the third elected to nonconsecutive terms, he's already emerged as a permanent fixture in Israeli politics. And now, presiding over the deepest governing coalition in Israel's history, Netanyahu is here to stay. Indeed, depending on how things go this November, he could even outlast his latest rival, Barack Obama.
The question, of course, is what he'll do with his newfound political clout and staying power.
Uncertainties abound. The Middle East is in turmoil. Wherever you look -- Syria, Egypt, the dangerous political split among Palestinians, Iran and the bomb -- there will be unknowns and dangers for the Israelis for some time to come.
And Israel has its own problems, and a leadership crisis, too. It is undergoing a political transition from a generation of founders who -- whatever their imperfections -- fashioned a remarkable country against extraordinarily grim odds. The era of David Ben Gurion, Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, and Ariel Sharon has given way to a younger generation of leaders who seem to lack the judgment, authenticity, and legitimacy of their predecessors.
Can Netanyahu become the connecting link? Is he a transformative leader who can lead Israel to peace with the Palestinians and out of the shadow of the Iranian bomb? In short, is he the right man at the right place at the right time to craft a bold strategy for Israel on peace, and perhaps war?
Unfortunately, the past doesn't inspire much confidence about the future.