The Wisdom of Jonathan Netanyahu


  Prof. Paul Eidelberg


  As we pray for Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier kidnapped by Hamas, it would

be well to recall the Entebbe rescue and ponder the wisdom of its fallen hero,

Jonathan Netanyahu (z?l).  The following is abstracted from his published



  September 3, 1965, to his family:  “As you know, there is a great hubbub in

Israel now with the elections approaching. None of the parties satisfies me,

and none of them represents what I think is right.”


  February 16, 1969, to his parents: “Zahal [the Israel Defense Forces] is the

only thing that stands between ourselves and the slaughter of our people as in

days gone by.” 


  April 9, 1969, to his parents:  “The truth is it’s rather tiring to live so

long in a state of war - a war whose end can be foreseen only in the distant

future.  You need much perseverance and patience to overcome all the crises

we’re facing now and those we’ll face in the future.”


  March 30, 1970, to his wife: “I believe that the Jewish people’s survival

depends largely upon Israel - and more than that: Israel’s survival depends on

us - on our capabilities and staying power. It’s enough to read just once all the

war slogans of our tens of millions of neighbors, to note their hatred and

desire to annihilate us .”


  November 17, 1973, to his parents, apropos of the Yom Kippur War:


  “I see with sorrow and great anger how a part of the people still clings to

hopes of reaching a peaceful settlement with the Arabs.  Common sense tells

them, too, that the Arabs haven’t abandoned their basic aim of destroying the

State, but the self-delusion and self-deception that have always plagued the

Jews are at work again.  It’s our great misfortunate.  They want to believe, so

they believe.  They want not to see, so they shut their eyes.  They want not to

learn from thousands of years of history, so they distort it.”


  This [war], no doubt, has been the hardest we’ve known - more costly in dead

and wounded, more marked with failures and successes, than any of the wars and

battles I have known.  But it’s precisely because of those initial blunders

(which I won’t go into now - I mean the failures in military judgment, in

interpreting intelligence data, in military doctrine, in political assessment,

and, of course, in the whole nation’s complacency) that the victory achieved was

so great.


  What a pity they’re now starting ‘The Wars of the Jews’ (among ourselves) even

before the fighting at the fronts is over -  ‘The Wars of the Jews’ are always

the ugliest and hardest of all.  These are wars of apologetics and futile

bickering, suppression or distortion of facts, and procrastination in making

decisions.  There is no doubt that what’s called for is new leadership, a more

correct perception of the realities, a sound recognition of the enemy’s aims,

and clear, definitive strategic political planning. If we don’t have a

well-defined, realistic objective, we won’t have to fight the Arabs for our

survival.  The Arabs won’t need to fight.  The Jews, as usual, will destroy



  In the main, the people, as a body, lacks perseverance while it abounds in

political and military blindness.”


  December 2, 1973, to Bibi:


  “What I’m positive of is that there will be a next round, and others after

that.  But I would rather opt for living here in continual battle than becoming

part of the wandering Jewish people.  Any compromise will simply hasten the end. 

As I don’t intend to tell my grandchildren about the Jewish State in the

twentieth century as a mere brief and transient episode in thousands of years of wandering, I intend to hold on here with all my might.”


  December 22, 1973, to Bibi:


  “In spite of Geneva [the Geneva Four-Power talks on the Middle East], I’m

worried chiefly by the Jews, not by the Arabs, and not even by the superpowers, though they’re quite a nasty thorn in our side.  The dissensions within is what will bring us to grief - unless we can overcome it.  It’s true some things have changed, but not much.  We said this. However, even before the war, so there’s nothing new.  We’ve not sobered up.”


  November 1, 1974, to Bibi: “I feel pretty profoundly apprehensive about the

future of the Jewish State.  Shedding illusions, I see the process aimed at

annihilating us is gathering momentum and the noose is tightening.  It won’t be a rapid process, though our strength will diminish from one war to the next.”


  February 3, 1975, to Bibi: “No need for me to write in detail about what’s

going on in the country.  It’s common knowledge.  We’re being sold out.  See you

in next war.  Maybe there won’t be a war so soon:  why should the Arabs fight if

they’re going to get it all for nothing?”


  May 11, 1975, to Bibi:  “What’s needed is wisdom to fight the process of

isolation that is closing in on us; but there are no wise men in Israel.”


  In his farewell speech to his battalion: “I believe that all the battalion’s

efforts must be subordinated to the main aim - victory in war.”

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