Ben-Zion Netanyahu dies at 102; father of Israeli prime minister (LA TIMES) By Batsheva Sobelman 05/01/12)
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An influential figure in the history of Israel and personal secretary
to Zionism Revisionist leader Zeev Jabotinsky, Ben-Zion Netanyahu
shaped the viewpoints of his son Benjamin Netanyahu.
JERUSALEM ó Historian Ben-Zion Netanyahu, the father of Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the man said to have had the most
profound influence on the conservative Israeli leader, died early
Monday in his Jerusalem home. He was 102.
The elder Netanyahu served as the personal secretary of Zionism´s
prominent Revisionist leader, Zeev Jabotinsky, in the United States
during World War II, lobbying for the creation of a Jewish state. He
also pursued his academic work, specializing in medieval Spanish
Jewry and the roots of the Spanish Inquisition.
Many attribute the prime minister´s deep convictions and interest in
history to his father´s unwavering hawkish beliefs; the Revisionist
movement differed sharply from the socialist Zionists of the early
20th century and did not believe in partitioning what was Palestine
during the British mandate into separate Jewish and Arab
states. "Benjamin Netanyahu was raised on uncompromising Zionism,"
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin told Israel Radio.
Netanyahu´s father also believed that Jews have long faced racial
discrimination and that efforts to reach compromises would prove
futile. Benjamin "Netanyahu has been guided by his father´s message,
which could be summarized as ´the world is against us,´ " wrote
columnist Akiva Eldar in the left-leaning daily Haaretz.
Born Ben-Zion Milikovsky in Warsaw in 1910, the elder Netanyahu
emigrated in 1920 to Palestine with his parents. They changed the
family name after the move. Netanyahu and his wife, Tzila, were
married in 1944, and they had three sons.
The Netanyahus moved back and forth between the United States and the
fledgling state of Israel after it was founded. Israeli academia,
however, did not embrace the scholar, whose right-wing beliefs went
against the grain of the prevalent socialist thinking, and he
continued his scholarship with various American universities, finally
becoming a professor emeritus at Cornell University.
Their final return to Israel came in 1976, after their eldest son,
Yoni, was killed during an Israeli commando operation to rescue
hostages on an Air France flight that was hijacked to Entebbe,
Uganda. Benjamin Netanyahu delivered the news to his parents.
"The longest, most difficult journey of my life," he later
said. "Since then, our family changed drastically."
As the nation´s leadership gathered in Jerusalem on Monday afternoon
for Ben-Zion´s funeral, the prime minister recalled his father´s deep
commitment to Judaism, his historical perspective and his efforts to
hasten the establishment of a Jewish state. "You always taught us
commitment to the nation and state, but no less than that was your
commitment to us," Netanyahu said of his close family.
Condolences came from across the political spectrum, and opposition
parties withdrew no-confidence motions and bills to dissolve
parliament and move to early elections out of respect for the week of
"A great historian and a great Jew," President Shimon Peres said at a
public event earlier in the day, asking the audience to observe a
minute of silence in his memory.
Netanyahu was also cited as a man of unwavering principles.
"Benjamin Netanyahu was raised on this fear of the enemy and was
certainly influenced by it, as on the issue of Iran; he has the sense
of mission," Gil Samsonov author of "The Likud Princes," told Israel
Netanyahu is survived by his remaining sons, the prime minister and
Ido Netanyahu, a physician, author and playwright.
Sobelman is a news assistant in the Los Angeles Times´ Jerusalem
bureau. (Copyright © 2012 Los Angeles Times 05/01/12)
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