JERUSALEM (AP) — Ben-ZionNetanyahu, the historian and Zionist activist whose skepticism about peacemaking with the Arabs helped to shape the world outlook of his son, Israeli Prime Minister BenjaminNetanyahu, died on Monday. He was 102.
The prime minister’s office said in a statement that Ben-Zion Netanyahu died at home. It did not give a cause of death, but he had been ill recently.
Born Ben-Zion Mileikowsky in Warsaw, Ben-ZionNetanyahu was a devout follower of revisionist Zionist leader Zeev Jabotinsky, who advocated Jewish military strength and opposed partitioning Palestine between Arabs and Jews. Ben-ZionNetanyahuserved as his personal aide until Jabotinsky’s death in 1940.
He then edited right-wing Jewish publications and earned a doctorate in history from Dropsie College in Philadelphia, a center of Jewish learning that later was 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.
His academic career had his family shuttling between the United States and Israel. He met with many Jewish leaders of the period, as well as with U.S. lawmakers, poets and leaders, including Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Ben-ZionNetanyahu and his wife, Tzila, 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, Ben-ZionNetanyahu 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.
Ben-Zion Netanyahu is believed to have had great influence over his middle 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 Arabs neighbors as long as his father was still alive, a notion the prime minister dismissed as “psychobabble.”
“The tendency to conflict is in the essence of the Arab. 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,” he told the Maariv daily in 2009. “The Arab citizens’ goal is to destroy us. They don’t deny that they want to destroy us.”