Tributes to Israeli Prime Minister's father Benzion Netanyahu

Israeli politicians have paid tribute to the father of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after his death early this morning.

Benzion Netanyahu, who was 102, was a personal aide of the r evisionist Zionist leader Ze'ev Jab o tinsky. A passionate Zionist and a professor of Jewish history, he was known for his academic research into the Spanish Inquisition.

The elder Netanyahu was born as Benzion Mileikowsky in Warsaw, but emigrated with his family to Mandate Palestine as a child. As an adult he became a leading figure in the revisionist Zionist movement and at the same time gained a PhD in history at Dropsie College in Philadelphia. He later taught at the University of Denver and was appointed as chairman of the department of Semitic languages and literature at Cornell University, before returning to live in Jerusalem.

Speaking at his father's 100 th birthday celebrations, the Prime Minister said that he had learnt from the historian Benzion "to look into the future".

The Prime Minister was the second of his three sons; the eldest, Yoni, was killed during the rescue mission of hostages in Entebbe, Uganda, in 1976.

Benzion Netanyahu's wife of 56 years, Tzila, died in 2000.

The Labour Party leader Shelly Yachimovich described him as "a unique man, distinguished historian, an ideologue and an intellectual who left a deep imprint on Israeli society".

Reuven Rivlin, Knesset speaker, praised the Prime Minister's father for creating "a home where Zionism was a Zionism with no compromise".

"Professor Netanyahu was an important scholar, both profound and original," added Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar.

Last updated: 10:07am, April 30 2012