The Shadow That Netanyahu's Late Father Cast: The World Is Against Us

Benzion Netanyahu taught the prime minister the value of being suspicious, not only of Israel's enemies, but also of friends abroad and the left at home.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu grew up in the shadow of his late father Benzion Netanyahu, an Israeli historian and Revisionist leader in the U.S. Zionist Movement, and his brother Yoni Netanyahu, who fell during the Entebbe operation. The first shadow died a natural death, while the second died before his time, but the two were interwoven. Childhood friends of Benjamin Netanyahu say the prime minister was always compelled to prove that he did not fall short of his heroic brother. It was no coincidence that he built his career on a reputation of being a "counterterrorism specialist."

The tireless desire to fulfill his father's expectations did not let up even when he reached the peak of his career as Israel's prime minister. When the Sharon government quit over the approval of the Gush Katif disengagement, Netanyahu declared, "I learned this from you, Dad." When he shook the hand of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for the first time as Israel's prime minister, Netanyahu expressed fear for his father's reaction. A short time later, he told settlers that he had asked for his father's advice before signing the Hebron Agreement.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his father, Benzion Netanyahu, participating in an official state ceremony commemorating Ze'ev Jabotinsky on Mount Herzl, Jerusalem.Credit: GPO

Netanyahu soaked up his father's admiration for Ze'ev Jabotinsky and his doctrine, and the strong hatred for the Israeli education establishment, especially of the Hebrew University, which, in the eyes of the Netanyahu family, exiled them out of political motivations. He learned from his historian father that history repeats itself: the Jews were once separated by gentiles in the Diaspora and fought for their lives against the Arab world, and today they control millions of Palestinians with the help of one of the strongest armies in the world.

That special affinity with the Jews deeply influenced Netanyahu's world-view on the reality that has faced the Middle East, and the entire world, over the past years. From the Spanish Inquisition (of which his father is a specialist, earning his title as a historian), to the 1929 riots, the Holocaust, the struggle between the British and Arabs, and including the threat of a nuclear Iran, Netanyahu has been guided by his father's message, which could be summarized as, "The world is against us."

Netanyahu's father taught the prime minister the value of being suspicious, not only of the commitments of Israel's friends abroad to the state's security and existence, but of left-wing intellectuals that do not belong to his camp. In that respect, it is impossible to forget what Netanyahu whispered in the ear of the aged kabbalist, Rabbi Yitzhak Kaduri: "The people of the left have forgotten what it is to be Jewish."

Netanyahu's inclination to constantly bring up the Holocaust is also inherited from his father. For example, the way he waved it in his last United Nations speech to prove that the Arab world has not taken action to end the annihilation of Jews, as more evidence that "Jews can't rely on anyone other than themselves."

Every so often, Benzion Netanyahu revealed the truth behind the so-called "concessions" that his son had offered the Palestinians. In one of his last interviews, the professor said his son was offering the Palestinians a state that they would never agree to.

The prime minister visited his father regularly throughout his life, and the two spent long hours together. Some of Benjamin Netanyahu's close associates used to say that the day Benzion joins his maker, his son will be released from the thrall of his biological and spiritual father. Others said that Benzion Netanyahu's political, historical and spiritual legacy will continue to guide his son until the end of his public life.

Read this article in Hebrew.