update deskIsrael at War

Netanyahu to AIPAC: The road to victory runs through Rafah

Israelis "overwhelmingly" support the government's policies on the war with Hamas, says PM Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressing the AIPAC conference in Washington, D.C. via video link from Israel on March 12, 2024. Source: Government Press Office/YouTube screenshot.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressing the AIPAC conference in Washington, D.C. via video link from Israel on March 12, 2024. Source: Government Press Office/YouTube screenshot.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressed on Tuesday that conquering Rafah was essential to winning the war against Hamas.

In a video address to the AIPAC conference in Washington, D.C., Netanyahu said, “To win this war, we must destroy the remaining Hamas battalions in Rafah. If not, Hamas will regroup, rearm and reconquer Gaza and then we’re back to square one. And that’s an intolerable threat that we cannot accept.”

He then restated the three war goals set forth by the government after the terrorist group invaded southern Israel on Oct. 7, murdering 1,200 people, wounding thousands more and kidnapping 253: “We will destroy Hamas, free our hostages and ensure that Gaza doesn’t ever pose a threat to Israel again.”

Netanyahu also addressed U.S. and international concerns about the safety of noncombatants during a military option in Rafah, the southernmost Gaza city and the last Hamas stronghold.

“We will finish the job in Rafah while enabling the civilian population to get out of harm’s way. We’ve taken measures to minimize civilian casualties that no other army has taken in history. Just ask Col. John Spencer, a world expert on urban warfare, in charge of urban warfare at West Point. We have taken measures to minimize civilian casualties that no other army has taken in history,” said Netanyahu.

“So to our friends in the international community, I say this: you cannot say you support Israel’s right to exist and to defend itself and then oppose Israel when it exercises that right. You cannot say you support Israel’s goal of destroying Hamas and then oppose Israel when it takes the actions necessary to achieve that goal. You cannot say that you oppose Hamas’s strategy of using civilians as human shields and then blame Israel for the civilian casualties that result from this cynical Hamas strategy.”

Netanyahu thanked U.S. President Joe Biden and his administration for their support before taking an indirect jab at Biden for his recent comments criticizing Netanyahu’s handling of the war effort, pointing out that his policies are broadly supported by the Israeli public.

“Some people would make you believe that the people of Israel are disunited. In fact, some people would have you believe there is the prime minister and then there is the people of Israel,” he said.

“The truth of the matter is that the people of Israel overwhelmingly support the policies set forth by myself and my government. They overwhelmingly support the need for total victory. Overwhelmingly. They overwhelmingly oppose the idea of having a Palestinian state rammed down our throat.

“We just had a vote in the Knesset, to illustrate the point I just made, 99 to 9 supported this position. And you know what? It’s not irrational. It’s because they think that giving, now, a Palestinian state, after the Oct. 7 massacre,will be the greatest reward for terrorism in modern times.

“They overwhelmingly reject the idea that we should implant, after we’ve destroyed Hamas in Gaza, the Palestinian Authority, that still inculcates its children towards terrorism and the annihilation of Israel. They want a future of peace, a future of security that is purchased by a resounding victory.”

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