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50 People Who Matter 2010 | 11. Binyamin Netanyahu

Lion of Zion.

The question for Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, is whether he has changed since he entered Likud politics in 1988, and his first stint as premier from 1996-99.

Throughout this time, cigar-chomping "Bibi" was a firm opponent of co-operation with the Palestinians, forcing "security" up the agenda in the face of Hamas suicide bombings.

At the first direct Palestine/Israel talks in two years, which began this month, Netanyahu called the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, his "partner in peace".

Yet the Israeli leader's influence on world affairs still resides in conflict and, in particular, his attitude to Iran's nuclear activities. He has long agitated for pre-emptive military ­action against Iran, an act that could lead to the outbreak of a third world war.

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This article first appeared in the 27 September 2010 issue of the New Statesman, The 50 people who matter