Iddo Netanyahu Remembers the Entebbe Raid
One of the most daring rescue operations in military history was saved by a faulty pickup truck.
That’s what Dr. Iddo Netanyahu told a crowd of more than 100 people at Mt. Sinai Jewish Center in New York last week, as he spoke about Operation Entebbe.
His brother, Yoni, led the Israeli raid that saved the lives of more than 100 hostages in Entebbe, Uganda. But Yoni was also killed during the daring rescue.
Iddo served with his brother in the same elite commando unit, Sayeret Matkal, but was on reserve at the time of the rescue. He is now a radiologist, playwright and the author of Yoni’s Last Battle: The Rescue at Entebbe, 1976.
According to Iddo Netanyahu, the night before the mission, a soldier defied the rules and left the base to drive home. He was planning to tell his father, a former IDF chief of staff, that the unit was not prepared for the operation. But when his pickup truck malfunctioned, the soldier returned to the base.
“As you can imagine, if he’d gone home and spoken to his father, in all likelihood, the operation would not have happened,” Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu also said that reports that the Israeli government was using negotiations as a ploy were false, and that the government was planning on reaching an agreement with the terrorists until a military option later became available.
His brother, Yoni, planned the raid in days. And while the training for such an operation would normally take months, it was completed in hours — because there was no other option. Iddo Netanyahu said that his brother had not slept for nights, and tried to raise the morale of the other soldiers right as they prepared to get off the transport plane in Uganda and launch the assault.
“He shook each man’s hand, said a few words of encouragement, joked a little bit and told them they’d be fine,” Netanyahu said of his brother.
Netanyahu interviewed many of the soldiers involved in the raid for his book, and said that people don’t realize how difficult such a mission is. “We’re talking about seconds,” he said. “The difference between success and failure is literally seconds.”
Netanyahu also said that the men involved in the operation were not superhuman. “It’s just human beings…not Matt Damon,” Netanyahu remarked, in an apparent reference to The Bourne Supremacy action series.
The rescue mission at Entebbe, which involved flying below radar, posing as the armed guards of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, and storming the airport terminal at midnight was so far-fetched, that none of the Israeli soldiers thought that the mission would actually happen.
Carla Hamauer, 74, said that she was moved after hearing Netanyahu’s speech. Hamauer was living in Israel on Kibbutz Dorot in 1976, when word broke of the success of the mission.
“In the morning, when I came out to the dining hall, the people were so exuberant. It was a big relief. We were so happy. But it was so sad to hear about Yoni.”