Netanyahus brother to speak here on Entebbe hero

Americans are now fighting the same forces that killed Yonatan Netanyahu in the 1976 raid at Entebbe, according to the hero's youngest brother.

"It's the same terrorists, the same problem," said Dr. Iddo Netanyahu, in a telephone interview from his U.S. office.

"Since international terrorism has never been stopped, it has reached the level it has today."

Iddo Netanyahu, whose book about his brother, "Yoni's Last Battle," was recently translated into English, will give an insider's perspective on Yoni during the 13th annual Contra Costa County Jewish Book Festival in Walnut Creek on Wednesday, Nov. 14.

His talk will concentrate on "what Yoni was involved with for most of his adult life, why he decided to go into the army, what motivated him," said Iddo.

"The answer, obviously, is Israel and Zionism — including his last battle against international terrorism."

In that battle, Yoni led a successful mission to rescue more than 100 Jewish and Israeli hostages held by four terrorists on an airplane at Entebbe, Uganda. Of the 200 soldiers in Israel's elite commando unit, Sayeret Matkal, only Yoni was killed.

Iddo, an author and radiologist as well as the brother of former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said there are lessons to be learned from the more than two-decades-old mission to Entebbe. Lessons that can be applied to America's current war.

"Courage," he said, "is the foremost ingredient in succeeding in the fight against terrorism."

The courage to battle terrorists physically is one thing, but there's also the courage "to face up to reality, not to delude oneself into easy, quick solutions, to think the terrorists will just go away after one or two military acts. People are often weak and willing to accept the easy way out."

Not Yoni, said Iddo. He had both types of courage.

"Yoni was never afraid to go into battle and he knew all the risks. Even though he loved life, he had no fear of death."

Iddo, who abandoned his studies at Cornell University in 1973 to fight in the Yom Kippur War, began his writing career while at Hebrew University School of Medicine.

His first book of short stories, "Hamatsilim," includes a tale about a rescue mission in which he participated during the 1973 war. His small team was sent to save a stranded group of soldiers, but when they arrived they found that one of the soldiers had frozen to death, an image still vivid in his mind.

"Yoni's Last Battle" came next, out of Iddo's desire to provide "proper documentation of Yoni's unit" 10 years after the raid.

"Since none of them had given their story for posterity, I thought I would interview them," he said. "After talking to 10 or 20 it became clear I had to write a book."

That book was followed by "Itmar K," a scathing political, social and cultural satire about Israel, printed in Hebrew and Russian.

Iddo resides in Jerusalem with his wife and two children but also spends time practicing medicine in the United States.

He will spend the upcoming two weeks on a nationwide book tour, publicizing the English translation of "Yoni's Last Battle" and the newly released 18th edition of "The Letters of Netanyahu: The Commander of the Entebbe Rescue Operation." This chronicle of Yoni's life contains letters dating up to his final days.

"The letters reflect on the harsh parts of what he was doing in his military exploits with reflections on the rest of his life, his loves, his general situation in Israel," said Iddo. "The way the letters are written, it's almost like a diary. People who read it feel a sort of identification for him and the personality that emerges out of the letters."

As for his other brother, Iddo was more tight-lipped. Asked if Benjamin is planning a future run for prime minister, Iddo cheerfully declined to answer, explaining he'd rather not comment on Israeli politics.

He was not quite as restrained about his own political aspirations, which have thus far been limited to a bimonthly political column in the Israeli press.

When asked if he would ever consider running for prime minister, Iddo's reply was quick and to the point.

"My God, no!"