Each person on TIME’s list gets a brief write-up by another renowned figure. In Netanyahu’s case, it’s Virginia Congressman Eric Cantor who gets to do the honors, and he is thoroughly glowing in his praise for the Israeli leader.
“Benjamin Netanyahu is a strong, determined leader who has excelled during a lifetime of service to the state of Israel,” Cantor writes. “Bibi’s accomplishments and service as a soldier, a diplomat, an economic reformer who took on the difficult and politically perilous task of challenging the status quo, and a two-time Prime Minister rank him among the world’s great leaders.” Cantor goes on to credit Netanyahu for forcing the world to realize the serious threat posed by Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and sponsorship of terrorism. “At this perilous moment,” Cantor says, “Prime Minister Netanyahu is the right leader for Israel — and the right partner for America.”
The first Israeli prime minister born in Israel after the founding of the state, Netanyahu joined the Israeli Defense Forces during the 1967 Six-Day War, and became a team leader in the Sayeret Matkal special forces unit. He took part in many missions, including one in which he was shot in the shoulder. Netanyahu fought on the front lines in the Yom Kippur War in 1973, taking part in special forces raids along the Suez Canal, and then leading a commando assault deep into Syrian territory. He achieved the rank of captain before being discharged.
Taking his natural leadership qualities into the political realm, Netanyahu served as the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations from 1984 to 1988, which gave him the opportunity to publicize his image in the United States via mass media as an urbane diplomat who spoke English flawlessly and defended Israel’s actions convincingly in his arguments. As a key member of the right-wing Likud party, Netanyahu ascended to the position of Prime Minister in 1996, a position he held until 1999.
While Netanyahu withdrew from politics after a corruption scandal related to gifts from a government contractor, he returned in 2002, serving first as Foreign Minister and then Finance Minister in Ariel Sharon’s governments. “Bibi” ultimately terminated his service to Sharon over disagreements regarding the Gaza Disengagement Plan. In December 2006, Netanyahu became the official Opposition Leader in the Knesset and Chairman of the Likud Party, and – less than a year later – he retained the Likud leadership by beating Moshe Feiglin in party elections. Following the February 2009 parliamentary elections, in which Likud placed second and right-wing parties won a majority, Netanyahu formed a coalition government and once again became Prime Minister.
Over the past several years, Netanyahu has commanded the world stage time and again, speaking out both eloquently and forcefully about the looming danger of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and generally reiterating the right of the Jewish state to determine its fate. Just this past week, at Israel’s Yom HaShoah commemoration ceremony at the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum, the Prime Minister spoke bluntly about the Iranian threat.”Today, the regime in Iran openly calls and determinedly works for our destruction,” he declared, “and it is feverishly working to develop atomic weapons to achieve that goal. The truth is that a nuclear-armed Iran is an existential threat to the State of Israel. The truth is that a nuclear-armed Iran is a political threat to other countries throughout the region and a grave threat to the world peace. The truth is that Iran must be stopped from obtaining nuclear weapons. It is the duty of the whole world, but above and beyond, it is our duty.”
In the realm of arts, TIME Magazine chose Harvey Weinstein, the famed movie producer, as an individual with tremendous influence in the contemporary film industry. Leading actor Johnny Depp wrote the publication’s appreciation of Weinstein, who is a co-founder of Miramax Films, and – together with his brother Bob – has been co-chairman of The Weinstein Company, their film production company, since 2005. “There are producers, and then there are producers. Harvey belongs to the latter batch,” Depp writes. “It’s an elite club for those with the kind of maverick vision to bring such disparate films as Pulp Fiction, Kids, Finding Neverland and umpteen others to the screen with equal aplomb.” Depp goes on to provide further factual proof of Weinstein’s prodigious and portentous output. “Over the past 25 years, American independent film has seen no better advocate than this man from Flushing, New York,” the actor states. “Now 60, he remains as relevant as ever, with The Artist following in the victorious footsteps of The English Patient and The King’s Speech. More recently, Harvey lent vehement support to the documentary Bully, an important film in an age in which such a concept has almost been forgotten.”
Weinstein and his younger brother Bob grew up in a Jewish family, residing in a housing co-op named Electchester. The two brothers and another partner, Corky Burger, independently produced rock concerts as Harvey & Corky Productions in Buffalo through most of the 1970s. Both Weinstein brothers had grown up with a passion for movies and they nurtured a desire to enter the film industry. In the late 1970s, using profits from their concert promotion business, the brothers created a small independent film distribution company called Miramax, named after their parents, Miriam and Max.
In the early 1980’s, Miramax acquired the rights to two British films of benefit shows filmed for human rights organization Amnesty International. The Weinstein brothers edited the two films into one movie tailored for the American market, The Secret Policeman’s Other Ball, and it became Miramax’s first hit. The movie was credited by Amnesty International with having helped to raise its profile in the United States.
The Weinsteins slowly built upon this success throughout the 1980s with arthouse films. They gained wider attention in 1988 with the release of Errol Morris’s documentary The Thin Blue Line, which detailed the struggle of a wrongfully convicted inmate sentenced to death row. The publicity that soon surrounded the case resulted in the prisoner’s release and nationwide publicity for Miramax. The company continued to grow its library of films and directors until, in 1993, after the success of The Crying Game, Disney offered the Weinsteins $80 million for ownership of Miramax. The Weinsteins agreed to the deal that would cement their Hollywood clout and ensure that they would remain at the head of their company. Miramax went on to great success with such hit films as Shakespeare in Love and Good Will Hunting. In 2005, the Weinstein brothers left Miramax to form their own production company – The Weinstein Company – with directors Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. The studio went on to become one of the most successful in the movie industry.
In the business arena, TIME selected Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of the social networking juggernaut Facebook, as one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2012. Muhtar Kent, the chairman and CEO of the Coca-Cola Company, penned the essay on Sandberg for the magazine. “In a time of great challenge and even greater opportunity, Sheryl Sandberg, 42, understands intuitively the potential of social networking to create positive change on a grand scale,” he states. “She’s helping people make the most of a more open, more transparent world, as Facebook creates dynamic new connections between individuals, organizations and causes — connections with the power to brighten our shared future, one click at a time.”
Growing up in North Miami Beach, Florida, Sandberg attended public school, where she was always at the top of her class. Upon her graduation from Harvard University in 1991, the future business leader was awarded the John H. Williams Prize for the top graduating student in economics. While at Harvard, Sandberg met then professor (and future renowned economist) Larry Summers, who became her mentor. Summers recruited her to be his research assistant at the World Bank, where she worked on health projects in India dealing with leprosy, AIDS, and blindness.
Earning her M.B.A. from Harvard Business School with highest distinction, Sandberg later reconnected to Summers, serving as his Chief of Staff while he was United States Secretary of the Treasury under President Bill Clinton. Sandberg used that role to help lead the Treasury’s work on forgiving debt in the developing world during the Asian financial crisis. The rising star of the business world joined the Internet giant Google Inc. in 2001 and served as its Vice President of Global Online Sales & Operations until 2008.
In 2008, Sandberg was recruited by Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder and CEO of Facebook, to take on the position of the website’s COO. Sandberg convinced Facebook’s leadership to begin relying on advertising, with the ads discreetly presented, and by 2010 the social networking site became profitable. Sandberg oversees all of the firm’s business operations.
Taking on roles beyond Facebook, Sandberg serves on the boards of the Walt Disney Company, Starbucks, the Brookings Institution, Women for Women International, and the Ad Council. Widely lauded for her business acumen, Sheryl Sandberg has been repeatedly ranked one of the 50 “Most Powerful Women in Business” by Fortune Magazine; in 2011, she was ranked #5 on “the world’s 100 most powerful women” by Forbes Magazine; and she was named one of the “25 Most Influential People on the Web” by Business Week. In 2004, Sandberg married David Goldberg, who later became CEO of SurveyMonkey.
TIME Magazine also named the renowned biographer Walter Isaacson as one of the most influential people in today’s world. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright offered her insights into the famed writer for its special list. Albright lauds Isaacson for going against the current societal trend of shorter attention spans engendered by media sound bites and brief Internet commentaries. “Walter Isaacson and his trio of brilliant works about men of genius — Franklin, Einstein and Steve Jobs – is influence of the best species, educating us while demonstrating the continued fascination of the seriously examined life,” Albright asserts. “What most separates Isaacson, 59, from would-be peers is his wisdom in choosing subjects whose individual talents have affected all our lives. He is a purveyor of knowledge, a supplier to addicts who seek a deeper understanding of all manner of things.”
A graduate of Harvard and an Oxford University Rhodes Scholar, Walter Isaacson worked as a journalist at The Sunday Times of London before joining TIME Magazine in 1978. He served as TIME’s political correspondent, national editor and editor of new media before becoming the magazine’s fourteenth editor in 1996. Isaacson became Chairman and CEO of CNN in 2001, and then president and CEO of the Aspen Institute, a nonpartisan educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C. His widely hailed books include American Sketches (2009), Einstein: His Life and Universe (2007), Benjamin Franklin: An American Life (2003) and Kissinger: A Biography (1992). Isaacson’s authorized biography of Apple Computer co-founder Steve Jobs became an instant international best-seller, breaking all records for sales of a biography.
Isaacson’s influential reach has extended well beyond the realm of literature. Chairman of the board of Teach for America, he also serves on the boards of United Airlines, Tulane University, Overseers of Harvard University, the Bloomberg Family Foundation, and the Society of American Historians. In 2007, he was appointed by President George W. Bush to the chairman of the U.S.-Palestinian Partnership, which seeks to create economic and educational opportunities in the Palestinian territories. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appointed him vice-chair of the Partners for a New Beginning, which encourages private-sector investments and partnerships in the Muslim world.
Isaacson also serves as the co-chair of the U.S.-Vietnamese Dialogue on Agent Orange, which in January 2008 announced completion of a project to contain the dioxin left behind by the U.S. at the Da Nang air base and plans to build health centers and a dioxin laboratory in the affected regions. In 2009, he was appointed by President Obama to be Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which runs Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, and the other international broadcasts of the U.S. government. He served until January 2012.