Benzion Netanyahu, Ivy League historian, and father of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Entebbe hostage rescue hero Yonatan Netanyahu, passed away in Israel of natural causes today at the age of 102.
Born in Warsaw, the elder Netanyahu became an activist in the Revisionist movement of Vladimir (Ze’ev) Jabotinsky, who favored a democratic model for the future State of Israel but argued that Jews would have to be prepared to take up arms to achieve it. Netanyahu worked closely with Jabotinsky, who remains an important inspiration in Israeli politics, particularly (though not exclusively) on the conservative side.
Like the Revisionists in the period before the Second World War, Netanyahu remained convinced of the need for vigilant self-defense against the threat of annihilation, according to Israel’s Ha’aretz:
In a televised interview two years ago, he uttered a sentence which distilled his worldview: “We are very simply in danger of extermination today. Not just existential danger, but truly in danger of extermination. They think the extermination, the Holocaust, is over, it isn’t, it goes on all the time.”….
He believed in true peace in our midst, but denounced any retreat, and saw the left as an existential threat. He attacked the general complacency he saw in Israel, which reminded him of the blind eyes turned toward the Nazi regime.
Benzion Netanyahu will be buried later today, and mourned by the State of Israel, as well as many scholars, students and friends around the world.