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Do You 'Yahu?

The former Israeli prime minister hits the road for his country.


Benjamin Netanyahu
  • Benjamin Netanyahu
What's a nice Jewish boy like Benjamin Netanyahu doing at Ashland University's John C. Myers Convocation Center on May 3? On a Friday night -- the Sabbath --no less?

Considering that Ashland is home to the Ashbrook Center -- a conservative think tank that's hosted the likes of Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford -- it's safe to assume that the former prime minister of Israel is paying a visit to raise a stash of cash and to increase his profile among Americans who support his country.

Israel may be the only democracy in the Middle East, but only a handful of folks ever get the chance to become prime minister (basically, the leader of the Jewish people). This political game of musical chairs can seem incestuous to outsiders.

So when Netanyahu, a guy from Brooklyn, decided to run as Likud Party leader (and, as a result, become prime minister), no one thought he had a chance. Yet he became Israel's youngest prime minister in 1996. He was brought to power by a coalition of traditionally disenfranchised groups, such as Sephardic (Middle Eastern) Jews and Jews from the former Soviet Union.

After a couple of years in power, he's now working a different sort of group. Conservatives, including many Christians, are playing an increasingly important role in the United States' support for Israel. In a way, Netanyahu's visit can also be perceived as one more thorn in the side of current Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Netanyahu has been all over the news lately, calling for the exile of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, among other things.

By all accounts, Netanyahu pines to be back in the halls of power. And given the exclusive club of potential future prime ministers, it is very possible that the boy from Brooklyn will return to the spotlight. He cajoled his way in once. He might do so again.

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