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Benzion Netanyahu on "the Arabs"

Posted by Christopher Shea  April 7, 2009 12:15 PM

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Benzion Netanhayu, 99, father of the Israeli prime minister

Benzion Netanyahu, father of the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is a professor emeritus of history at Cornell, though he now lives in Israel. In 1996, just after Benjamin was elected Prime Minister for the first time, and one year after the elder Netanyahu had published his magnum opus, "The Origins of the Inquisition in Fifteenth-Century Spain," I proposed doing a piece on him that would explore both his scholarly and political views. Benjamin has often commented on the influence his father had on him and his two brothers (the eldest of the three, Yonatan, died leading the heroic Israeli assault on Entebbe, rescuing hostages).

The reputedly ultra-nationalist Benzion didn't go for it at the time, commenting (reasonably) that people would comb the resulting article looking for things to use against his son. Now, however, age 99, he has cast aside such scruples, and recently sat down for a lengthy interview with the Israeli newspaper Maariv. When Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu, who had not been consulted, caught wind of the interview, he asked that the newspaper not print the transcript, citing his father's advanced age. In a compromise, the newspaper let the Prime Minister's brother, Iddo, look it over and do some editing.

It would be hard to argue that the interview was sanitized, however, judging from excerpts posted on The Promised Land, an English-language blog written by a reporter for Maariv:

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 [the hostage] Gilad Shalit back.

Q: Operation "Cast Lead" [the incursion into Gaza] 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 perpetual war.

[More after the jump.]

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.

Via Jeffrey Goldberg, who notes that the father "makes Bibi look like a radical leftist."

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5 comments so far...
  1. Gee. What a lovable guy.

    Posted by Yitzhak Be'er April 28, 09 03:24 PM
  1. Don't be so quick to judge. Benzion Netanyahu is a brilliant scholar and a realist. His conclusions come after almost 100 years of intense study of history and human behavior. I will take bets that history will prove him right. Everyone wants peace but, for some, deception used to gain domination has always superceded such goals. Such is the mindset of Israel's enemies. Israel is a tiny country. The Arab and Moslem world has enomorous space to absorb its Palestinian population but does not - in order to keep pressure on its ultimate goal: the theft of the royal jewel - Jerusalem. Jewish history in Jerusalem is documented back four millenia. Arab control of the city is based on a vision of a man on a horse, not on reality. Benzion Netanyahu is a wise and brilliant scholar who should be respected. Study as much as he has before jumping to conclusions.

    Posted by b-zionah July 19, 09 01:43 PM
  1. Re: Comment #2 - Reference was to current situation not Arab conquest period.

    Posted by doctordog July 20, 09 10:45 AM
  1. History already has shown him right. Decades ago the PLO were launching rockets and terrorist actions from bases in Lebanon. FOR PEACE, they were given GAZA. What have they shown in the way of peace for such a prize? The answer is simple. Now they launch rockets from Gaza and can hit a variety of targets instead of being limited to just those in the north.

    Realistic he is, lovable towards those who intend to wipe you out? Not so much

    Posted by Shadova July 20, 09 12:20 PM
  1. He is a racist.

    Posted by zoetje November 15, 09 12:10 PM
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