My paper, Maariv, published an eight pages interview Sari Makover-Belikov did with professor Ben Zion Netanyahu, Benjamin Netanyahu’s 99 year old father. Netanyahu often refers to his father as the person who inspired him the most. When he resigned from the government just before the disengagement from Gaza, Netanyahu mentioned his father as one of the reasons for his move (Prof. Netanyahu opposed the disengagement plan). “From you I’ve learned, father,” said Netanyahu that day.
In this interview, Prof. Ben Zion (who’s mind and thinking are clear as ever – in fact, he is about to go on a work tour to the US) explains his political views in length, discusses the dangers from the Left in Israel, and even passes judgment on his son’s character. He also discusses personal issues, such as his relations with Netanyahu’s wife, their kids and how he misses his son, Yoni, who was killed leading Operation Entebbe in 1976.
Prof. Netanyahu gave the interview without informing the PM’s office. As walla.co.il reported, Benjamin Netanyahu tried to prevent the publishing of this interview, and even called Maariv’s publisher, Ofer Nimrodi, on the matter. Finally it was agreed that because of the father’s age, the PM’s brother, Ido, will have the right to go over his answers. I believe this makes this interview even more valid, since Ido wouldn’t have let Maariv publish a text which doesn’t reflect the father’s personality and views.
In today’s political world, Prof. Netanyahu will be considered an extreme right wing man. In fact, Prof. Netanyahu says that because of his views, he was never offered a teaching job in one of Israel’s universities (he is a world expert on medieval Jewish history). I tend to believe him. He was also one of the leaders of the US Zionist movement, and personal secretary to the founder of the Revisionist movement, Zeev Jabotinsky.
Over the weekend I will post here the most interesting excerpts from the interview. Here is the first part, regarding the peace process (the fun parts are at the end):
Prof. Netanyahu: “The Jews and the Arabs are like two goats facing each other on a narrow bridge. One must jump to the river – but that involves a danger of death. The strong goat will make the weaker one jump… and I believe the Jewish power will prevail.”
Q: What does the Arab’s jump mean?
A: “That they won’t be able to face [anymore] the war with us, which will include withholding food from Arab cities, preventing education, terminating electrical power and more. They won’t be able to exist, and they will run away from here. But it all depends on the war, and whether we will win the battles with them.”
Q: I suppose you don’t believe in the peace process.
A: “I don’t see any signs that the Arabs want peace… we will face fierce attacks from the Arabs, and we must react firmly. If we don’t, they will go on and Jews will start leaving the country… we just handed them a strong blow in Gaza, and they still bargain with us over one hostage… if we gave them a blow that would really hurt them, they would have given us Gilad Shalit back.”
Q: Operation “cast Lead” was one of the worst blows we handed on a civilian population.
A: “That’s not enough. It’s possible that we should have hit harder.”
Q: You don’t like the Arabs, to say the least.
A: “The bible finds no worse image than this of the man from the desert. And why? Because he has no respect for any law. Because in the desert he can do as he pleases.
The tendency towards 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 perpetuate war.”
Q: Is there any hope of peace?
A: “Out of agreement? No. the other side might stay in peace if it understands that doing anything [else] will cause it enormous pain.
The two states solution doesn’t exist. There are no two people here. There is a Jewish people and an Arab population… there is no Palestinian people, so you don’t create a state for an imaginary nation… they only call themselves a people in order to fight the Jews.”
Q: So what’s the solution?
A: “No solution but force… strong military rule. Any outbreak will bring upon the Arabs enormous suffering. We shouldn’t wait for a big mutiny to start, but rather act immediately with great force to prevent them from going on…
If it’s possible, we should conquer any disputed territory in the land of Israel. Conquer and hold it, even if it brings us years of war. We should conquer Gaza, and parts of the Galil, and the Golan. This will bring upon us a bloody war, since war is difficult for us – we don’t have a lot of territory, while the Arabs have lots of space to retreat to. But that’s the only way to survive here.”
There is valuable experience [on this matter] we don’t pay notice to. I mean the Ottoman rule over the Arabs. The Turks ruled over the Arabs for 400 years, and there was peace and quiet everywhere. The Arabs hated the Ottomans, but every little thing they did brought mass killings and hanging in towns squares. They were hanging people in Damascus, and Izmir… every town had hanging posts in its center…the Arabs were so badly beaten, they didn’t dare revolt. Naturally, I don’t recommend the use of hangings as a show of force like the Turks did, I just want to show that the only thing that might move the Arabs from the rejectionist position is force.”
Here are some more excerpts from the interview Maariv’s Sari Makover-Belikiv did with Benjamin Netanyahu’s father, Prof. Ben Zion Netanyahu. The PM’s office tried to prevent this interview from being published, and with a good reason.
You can read the first part here.
On the peace process:
Prof. Netanyahu: “The problem with the Left is that it thinks that the war with the Arabs is like all the wars that nations around the world are conduction. These wars end with a compromise after one side wins or after both sides get tired from war and understand that victory is not possible. But in the Arabs’ case, their nature and character won’t allow any compromise. When they talk of compromise, it’s a way of deceiving. They want to make the other side stop doing its best efforts and fall into the trap of compromising. The Left helps them with that goal”
Q: If compromise replaces war, what is the damage?
A: “compromise is not realistic. It weakens our positions and brings us to a state of limpness, of false believes, of illusions. Every illusion is weakening.”
Q: What is your position regarding Syria? There are those who claim that Netanyahu will try to advance there.
A: “I would not return the Golan Hight. We conquered the Golan because the Arabs were shooting from these mountains and killing our farmers across the Jordan River. And anyway, you don’t give back land that was conquered in war, and for which we spilled our blood. It should be clear that parts of the Land of Israel that will fall into our hands – we will defend our right to hold them until all generations end. You don’t return land, just like you don’t return people.”
Regarding the Arab citizens of Israel:
“We don’t have a real partnership with them. The Arab citizens’ goal is to destroy us. They don’t deny that they want to destroy us. Except for a small minority who is willing to live with us under certain agreements because of the economical benefits they receive, the vast majority of the Israeli Arabs would chose to exterminate us if they had the option to do so. Because of our power they can’t say this, so they keep quiet and concentrate in their daily life.
I think we should speak to the Israeli Arabs in the language they understand and admire – the language of force. If we act with strength on any crime they act, they will understand we show no forgiveness. Had we used this language from the start, they would have been more careful.
I am talking about strength that is based on justice. They should know that we will keep a just attitude towards them, but a tough one. You don’t kill or hurt people or deny their right to make a living just like that. In the villages that we rule, we need to grant them all the rights – infrastructure, and transportation and education… but they have to give things in return. If the teachers are inciting the students, we should close the schools and expel the teachers… we should keep their rights, but also ours.”
This is the third and final post with excerpts from Sari Makover-Belikov’s 8 page interview with Benjamin Netanyahu’s father, Prof. Ben Zion Netanyahu, published by Maariv. The PM’s office tried to prevent this interview from being published, and for a good reason.
In this last section, Prof. Netanyahu discusses his son’s character and the reasons for his failure on his previous term (some of these excerpts are available online in Hebrew). He also mentions two episodes from Netanyahu’s childhood; the second one, which probably happened when Bibi was 13 or 14, is very interesting.
Prof. Ben Zion: “Bibi didn’t succeed in his first term. He wasn’t a very good Prime Minister. At the time, I was shocked to see how he defeated [Prime Minister] Shimon Peres who was a well-known personality, while Bibi was just a young man. I was sure he would be defeated. But I think he learned from his mistakes.”
Q: What do you think of him?
A: “Benjamin, or Bibi, is, from several aspects, a great man. He can influence and motivate people to do what’s necessary… he is loyal to his people, and has a sense of responsibility… he is not one who prefers the comfort of compromise just to rid himself of pressure.”
Q: So much for his strengths. What are his weaknesses?
A: “… his main fault is that sometimes he doesn’t choose people who are suitable for their positions. He doesn’t always see clearly their advantages and disadvantages, but rather falls for their deceiving ways. Sometimes he learns of their disadvantages only after the bond [with these people] is already made and cannot be broken…”
Q: To what extend is he influenced by your opinions?
A: “Sometimes I feel Bibi is influenced from a very small age, and sometimes I don’t. We don’t have the same opinions always…”
Q: And still, how much do you think you’ve influenced his opinions today?
A: “I have a general idea. Bibi might aim for the same goals as mine, but he keeps to himself the ways to achieve them, because if he expressed them, he would expose his goals.”
Q: is that what you wish?
A: “No, I just believe that it could be so. Because he is smart. Because he is very careful. Because he has his ways to handle himself. I am talking about tactics regarding the reveling of theories that people with different ideology might not accept. That’s why he doesn’t expose them: because of the reaction from his enemies as well as from the people whose support he seeks. It’s an assumption, but it might be so.”
On Netanyahu as a kid:
Prof. Ben Zion recalls his son wasn’t interested in politics very much. “He only cared about being a good student, he only cared for history and math. He was a firm kid… I remember once he and his brother Yoni made a big noise next to where I was working. I came out to them and acted as if I was trying to catch them, though I never laid my hand on a kid. Bibi ran away, but when he saw I was getting close, he turned towards me and stood up like a tank, saying ‘You wouldn’t dare.’ I was shocked. I looked at him with amazement and admiration.
“Bibi stood up for what he though he deserved. He had a friend, the son of Dr. Halperin. They both went to an excellent school, from which some students got picked to the Hebrew University High School [the most prestigious high school in Jerusalem]. A week before the years’ end, they announced who got picked, and Bibi’s name wasn’t mentioned. One day, it was announced that Halperin got picked as well. Bibi was so upset, and Halperin said to him: “what do you think, not anyone gets picked, only those who deserve it.” And that upset Bibi even more. He came home and ran to his bed crying. He hit the pillow with his hands and shouted ‘it’s not fair, it’s not fair’. And while he was at it, it was found out that he was chosen too. Then he said ‘I knew that my name would be there too.’”