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Israel prime minister's father dies at 102

April 30, 2012 9:11 A.M. (Updated: April 30, 2012 6:03 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Reuters) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's father, often believed to have had a great influence on his son's right-wing politics, died on Monday at the age of 102, an official statement said.

Benzion Netanyahu was a renowned professor of medieval Jewish history, an expert on Antisemitism and a supporter of the late hawkish Zionist ideologue Zeev Jabotinsky.

"Bibi learnt the pure Zionism from a man who was so close to Jabotinsky," parliament speaker Reuven Rivlin told Israel Radio, referring to the prime minister by his nickname.

"He was educated in a home where Zionism was a Zionism with no compromise ... though Bibi's realpolitik was much more developed."

At a party to celebrate his father's 100th birthday, the Jewish Chronicle quoted the prime minister as saying: "I learnt from you to look into the future."

In his own speech at the same event, Benizon warned of the dangers Iran posed as it forged ahead with a nuclear program that many in the West believe is aimed at acquiring the atomic bomb.

He said Israel should be ready to strike Iran when "there is a reasonable chance of success".

The Zionist ideology that Benzion advocated was based on the belief that Jews had the right to live in all the biblical land of Israel, including the occupied West Bank, annexed east Jerusalem and parts of modern-day Jordan.

Benzion's political leanings were an impediment to his rise through the ranks of Israeli academia, which was dominated by leftist thinking, and he spent much of his career in the United States, where Benjamin Netanyahu grew up.

His best known work was a study of the Spanish Inquisition -- the Origins of the Inquisition in 15th Century Spain -- where he argued that the crackdown on Jews was driven by racial hatred rather than just religious zeal.
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