After serving as opposition leader, he recaptured the premiership in 2009 and established a broad coalition government that granted him unprecedented political backing.
‘‘We've seen a political learning curve. He’s improved from his first time around,’’ said Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University. ‘‘He has a legacy when it comes to the economy: more than anyone else in Israel, he is identified with liberalizing the economy and shifting the country toward capitalism.’’
There, too, Netanyahu exhibited his practical side, with populist moves like promoting free education and dental care for children and raising the minimum wage.
One of the main achievements of his second term in office was securing the release of a Israeli soldier held captive by Hamas militants for five years. The deal included the freeing of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, including hundreds of convicted killers. That emboldened Hamas and ran contrary to Netanyahu’s previous opposition to negotiating with terrorists. The exchange, though widely popular, further enhanced his reputation as someone who was easily pressured and whose beliefs were flexible when balanced against his political survival.
He also carried out an eight-day offensive against Gaza rocket squads last November but agreed to a cease-fire that many say helped Hamas.
Inbar said Netanyahu was a man of ‘‘most impressive skills and a wonderful communicator’’ who has proven a steady hand in power and willingness to compromise. He doubted he would emerge as a grand initiator in his third term.
‘‘The chance for major changes is not great,’’ he said. ‘‘I don’t think that is his way.’’
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