World leaders on Wednesday called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to express his condolences over the passing of Benzion Netanyahu, the prime minister’s father, who passed away Monday morning at the age of 102.
“Michelle and I wish to express our deep sorrow on the passing of your father,” US President Barack Obama said. “I can only imagine how proud he was that you are leading the State of Israel. For him, that was the biggest present. I want you to know that we think of you and your family. Your father was a figure larger than life.”
The late historian, who spent many years researching and teaching at American universities, was a “bridge between Israel and the US,” Obama added.
Netanyahu thanked the president for his phone call, saying that “no matter how long life is, it’s always too short. Even if you think you’re ready to part from your parents, you’re never really ready for that.”
Also on Wednesday afternoon, French Ambassador to Israel Christophe Bigot visited Netanyahu, who is observing the traditional seven-day mourning period at his late father’s house in Jerusalem’s Haportzim Street and handed him a letter of condolence from French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
“This professor emeritus leaves behind him scholarly work of great quality, notably on Spanish Jewry, which makes him an eminent member of Israel’s historic school. He also brought to life his authentic love for Israel and the Jewish people,” the letter read.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin and outgoing President Dimitry Medvedev, British Prime Minister David Cameron, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former secretary of state Henry Kissinger also relayed their condolences.
On Tuesday, both Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad sent letters of condolence to Netanyahu, who will resume his regular schedule on Sunday.
Benzion Netanyahu, a renowned historian and former aide to Revisionist Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky, was a major influence on the thinking of the prime minister.