Yonatan Netanyahu : biography
Yonatan "Yoni" Netanyahu ( March 13, 1946 – July 4, 1976), was the commander of the elite Israeli army commando unit Sayeret Matkal. He was the only Israeli soldier killed in action during Operation Entebbe in Uganda.
He was awarded the Medal of Distinguished Service for his conduct in the Yom Kippur War. His younger brother, Benjamin Netanyahu, is the current Prime Minister of Israel.
Yonatan Netanyahu was born in New York City, USA, the eldest son of Zila (née Segal; 1912–2000) and Benzion Netanyahu (1910–2012), a professor emeritus of history at Cornell University. He was named after his paternal grandfather, Rabbi Nathan Mileikowsky, and John Henry Patterson. His two brothers were Benjamin and Iddo. Benjamin (nicknamed "Bibi") was elected Prime Minister of Israel in 1996, in 2009 and reelected in 2013. Iddo, the youngest of the three, is a radiologist and writer. All three brothers served in Sayeret Matkal.
Yonatan Netanyahu attended Cheltenham High School in Wyncote, Pennsylvania, where he was a classmate of Baseball Hall of Fame member Reggie Jackson.
Netanyahu married his long-time girlfriend Tirza ("Tuti") on August 17, 1967. Shortly after their wedding, they flew to the U.S., where Yoni enrolled at Harvard University. He took classes in philosophy and mathematics, excelling in both, and was on the Dean's List at the end of his first year.Hastings (1979), p. 89. However, feeling restless at being away from Israel, especially with Israel skirmishing against Egypt during the War of Attrition, Yoni transferred to Jerusalem's Hebrew University in 1968. In early 1969, he left his studies and returned to the army.
Netanyahu joined the Israeli Defence Forces in 1964. He volunteered to serve in the Paratroopers Brigade, and excelled in the Officer Training Course. He was eventually given command of a paratroopers company. On June 5, 1967, during the Six Day War, his battalion fought the battle of Um Katef in Sinai, then reinforced the Golan Heights. During the battle, Yonatan received a wound to his elbow while helping rescue a fellow soldier who lay wounded deep behind enemy lines.
After the Six Day War, Netanyahu went to the United States to study at Harvard University, but returned a year later because of the War of Attrition. Instead, he studied at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, returning to active military service after half a year.
In the early 1970s he joined Sayeret Matkal (Israeli special forces), and in the summer of 1972 was appointed as the unit's deputy commander. During that year, he commanded a raid (Operation Crate 3) in which senior Syrian officers were captured and exchanged in return for captive Israeli pilots. The following year he participated in Operation Spring of Youth (), in which the alleged terrorists and leadership of Black September were selectively killed by Sayeret Matkal, Shayetet-13 and the Mossad.
During the Yom Kippur War in October 1973, Netanyahu commanded a Sayeret Matkal force in the Golan Heights that killed more than 40 Syrian commandos in a battle which thwarted the Syrian commandos' raid in the Golan's heartland. During the same war, he also rescued Lieutenant Colonel Yossi Ben Hanan from Tel Shams, while Ben Hanan was lying wounded behind Syrian lines.
Following the war, Netanyahu was awarded Medal of Distinguished Service (), Israel's third highest military decoration, for his wartime conduct. Netanyahu then volunteered to serve as an armor commander, due to the heavy casualties inflicted on the Israeli Armored Corps during the war, with a disproportionate number of these in the officer ranks. Netanyahu excelled in Tank Officers course, and was given command of the Barak Armored Brigade, which had been shattered during the war. Netanyahu turned his brigade into the leading military unit in the Golan Heights.
In June 1975 Netanyahu left the Armored Corps and returned to Sayeret Matkal as unit commander. He was killed in action on July 4, 1976. while commanding Operation Entebbe, his first big operation since returning to the unit. Netanyahu was the only Israeli soldier killed during the raid (along with three hostages, all of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine members, and dozens of Ugandan soldiers). Netanyahu was shot outside the building being stormed, and would soon die in the arms of Efraim Sneh, commander of the mission's medical unit. The operation itself was considered a success by Israel, and was posthumously renamed Mivtsa Yonatan (Operation Yonatan) in honor of Netanyahu.
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