PM Netanyahu and his father
He also served as the science editor for the Encyclopaedia Hebraica, published between 1944 and 2005.
Prof. Netanyahu was known to hold political views that were often more to the Right than his son's, and was often publicly critical of the prime minister's policies.
In 2004 he signed a petition of academicians who opposed the Gaza disengagements.
Benzion Netanyahu was born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1910. His family immigrated to then-Palestine in 1920 and eventually settled in Jerusalem.
In 1944, Netanyahu married Tzila Segal and the couple had three sons: Yonatan, born in 1946, a former commander of Sayeret Matkal, who was killed in 1976 during Operation Entebbe; Benjamin, born 1949 and Ido, born 1952, a physician, author and playwright.
When marking his father's 100th birthday, Netanyahu said that "It was my father who taught me that those who are unfamiliar with the past cannot understand the present and those who cannot understand present cannot see what lies ahead."
President Shimon Peres conveyed his condolences to the Netanyahu family, saying their patriarch was "a great historian and a great Jew."
Political rivals show deference
Despite the heated predictions for the opening plenum of the Knesset's summer session, set for noon Monday, the prime minister's political rivals announced that they will pull the various nonconfidence motions out of respect for the family's mourning.
Kadima, Meretz, Labor and the National Union, all informed Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin that they wish to remove their motions from the plenum's agenda.
Opposition Chairman Shaul Mofaz (Kadima) issued an official statement following the announcement of Prof. Netanyahu's death: "I have had the honor of knowing Benzion Netanyahu. He was a humble, bright and dear man.
"Benzion Netanyahu was cut above the rest, a Zionist who believed in Israel and its right to exist – a belief for which he paid dearly when he lost his son. I am deeply saddened by his passing and offer the family my condolences."
Labor Chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich also issued a statement, posted on her Facebook page, saying: "Prof. Benzion Netanyahu, the PM's father, passed away today, at the age of 102.
"He was an important historian, an intellectual and a right-wing ideologist. I have the deepest appreciation for ideologists, even when they belong to the other side of the political spectrum.
"I sent the prime minister my condolences and told him that, while you only have one father, his father was also very unique in the mark he left on Israeli society. May he rest in peace."