JERUSALEM, Israel -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's father, Prof. Ben-Zion Netanyahu, passed away in his Jerusalem residence early Monday morning at the age of 102. The prime minister visited with his father for the last time on Sunday.
A prolific writer, editor and historian, and professor emeritus at Cornell University, Ben-Zion wrote extensively on the history of the Jewish people in Spain. In the 1950s, he edited the Encyclopedia Hebraica. Decades ago, he even predicted the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and the downing of the Twin Towers.
Born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1910, the elder Netanyahu immigrated to Israel in 1920. A strong nationalist, he later served as personal secretary to the father of Revisionist Zionism, Ze'ev Jabotinsky.
During the 1940s, Ben-Zion became executive director of the New Zionist Organization of America.
In 1944, Ben-Tzion married Tzila Segal. They raised three sons -- Yonatan (Jonathan), Iddo and Binyamin (Benjamin) -- and were married 56 years until her death in 2000.
Yonathan, a commander of the IDF's elite Sayaret Matkal unit, was the sole Israeli casualty in the daring rescue operation at Entebbe on June 27, 1976. His death was a devastating blow to the whole family.
"Since then, our family life changed drastically. Today, there is life before Yoni's death, and life after Yoni's death," Netanyahu said in a 2010 television interview.
Opposed Wye Accords, Gush Katif Pullout
An ardent Zionist, Ben-Zion didn't always agree with his son. He opposed the Wye Agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, brokered by former President Bill Clinton in 1998 during Netanyahu's first term as prime minister.
Then PLO chairman Yasser Arafat agreed to combat terrorism, arrest perpetrators, confiscate weapons and accelerate an agreement with Israel while Netanyahu agreed to cede sovereignty of most of Hebron.
Arafat didn't implement any of the agreement; instead, he threatened to declare unilateral statehood. In September 2000, he launched the second intifada (armed Palestinian uprising). Nearly 1,500 Israelis were killed in suicide bombings and drive-by shootings throughout the country.
Ben-Zion also opposed the government's pullout from Gush Katif in the Gaza Strip in August 2005, under former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, which his son backed at the last minute.
Nearly 10,000 Israelis were uprooted from 21 thriving Jewish communities in Gush Katif and four in northern Samaria. Palestinians took advantage of the closer proximity to increase rocket and mortar shell attacks on southern Israel.
Netanyahu said his father taught him "to distinguish between the important and the unimportant and concentrate on the important."
"You taught me, Father, how to correctly view reality, how to understand what it contains within it and draw the necessary conclusions. It certainly wasn't an easy thing for you because there were always those who did not see as you did, ridiculed, laughed at or belittled your conclusions," Netanyahu said in the 2010 interview.
"But I believe that in this, as well, you taught me to distinguish between the important and the unimportant, and concentrate on the important," he said.
"The same foresight led Father to say dozens of years ago that the threat to world peace would emerge from the same parts of the Muslim world where oil, terrorism and nuclear go together. And it is also what led him to tell me in the early 1990s that the Muslim extremists would not rest and would attempt to bring down the Twin Towers in New York, a prediction that I included in one my books in 1995," the prime minister said.
The funeral will be held at 5:00 p.m. Monday at the Har Menuchot Cemetery in Jerusalem's Givat Shaul neighborhood.
Ha'aretz contributed to this report.