(Washington Post By Aron Heller, Published: April 30 The Washington Post / LIOR MIZRAHI/AFP/Getty Images) Ben-Zion Netanyahu, the historian and Zionist activist whose skepticism about peacemaking with the Arabs helped to shape the world outlook of his son Benjamin, Israel’s prime minister, died April 30 at his home in Jerusalem. He was 102.
father of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,
arriving to attend a change of power ceremony
at President Shimon Peres' residence in Jerusalem in 2009.
The prime minister’s office did not give a cause of death.
Born Ben-Zion Mileikowsky in Warsaw, Dr. Netanyahu was a devout follower of revisionist Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky, who advocated Jewish military strength and opposed partitioning Palestine between Arabs and Jews. Dr. Netanyahu served as his personal aide until Jabotinsky’s death in 1940.
Dr. Netanyahu then edited right-wing Jewish publications and earned a doctorate in history from Dropsie College in Philadelphia, a center of Jewish learning that was later incorporated into the University of Pennsylvania.
Later, he was a professor of Jewish history and Hebrew literature at the University of Denver and Cornell University, where he served as chairman of the department of Semitic languages and literature. He was the editor-in-chief of the Hebrew Encyclopedia for more than a decade.
He was best known in academic circles for his research into the medieval inquisition against the Jews of Spain, the subject of his 1995 book, “The Origins of the Inquisition in Fifteenth Century Spain.” In the New York Times, Richard Bernstein critiqued the book as a “remarkable, lucid and very lengthy explanation of one of the central acts of malice in world history.”
Dr. Netanyahu’s academic career had his family shuttling between the United States and Israel. He met with many Jewish and U.S. political leaders of the period, including President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Dr. Netanyahu and his wife, the late Tzila Segal, had three sons: Yonatan, Benjamin and Iddo, all of whom served in the same elite military commando unit, Sayeret Matkal. Yonatan was killed while commanding the daring 1976 rescue of more than 100 Jewish and Israeli hostages on board an Air France jet in Entebbe, Uganda.
Following his son’s death, Dr. Netanyahu returned to Israel full time. His middle son, Benjamin, entered politics and was elected prime minister of Israel in 1996 and again in 2009. Iddo, the youngest of the three, is a radiologist and writer.
Dr. Netanyahu is believed to have had great influence over his son’s politics and openly criticized him when his government made concessions toward the Palestinians.
Several analysts have speculated that Benjamin Netanyahu was emotionally unable to sign off on a comprehensive peace deal with Israel’s Arab neighbors as long as his father was still alive, a notion the prime minister dismissed as “psychobabble.”
In newspaper interviews late in life, Ben-Zion Netanyahu forcefully questioned the feasibility of Mideast peace.
“The tendency to conflict is in the essence of the Arab,” he told the Maariv daily in 2009. “He is an enemy by essence. His personality won’t allow him any compromise or agreement. It doesn’t matter what kind of resistance he will meet, what price he will pay. His existence is one of perpetual war.
“The Arab citizens’ goal is to destroy us. They don’t deny that they want to destroy us.”
— Associated Press
Labels: Jabotinsky» Netanyahu» Prime Minister Netanyahu
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