In 1st, PM accepts some responsibility for Oct. 7: ‘I hold myself and everyone on this’

Netanyahu coaxed into admission in interview with Dr. Phil after insisting for months he’d wait for post-war commission before speaking of own role in failing to prevent onslaught

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is interviewed on the Dr. Phil Primetime show on Merit Street Media from Jerusalem on May 9, 2024. (Screen capture/YouTube)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is interviewed on the Dr. Phil Primetime show on Merit Street Media from Jerusalem on May 9, 2024. (Screen capture/YouTube)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared for the first time to take a personal degree of responsibility for Hamas’s October 7 terror onslaught, which his government failed to foresee or prevent, coaxed into the admission in an interview with television psychologist Dr. Phil.

Netanyahu was asked about his responsibility for the onslaught in an interview with US media personality Phil McGraw on the “Dr. Phil Primetime” show. broadcast Thursday.

“There are some people, including some Israeli people, who want an explanation for how October 7th happened. Some have given explanations. Some in the military, some from the political side. Are they owed an explanation? Have you given an explanation to the people of your point of view?” Dr. Phil asked.

“I think we’re going to have to give a thorough explanation. We’re going to have to have a thorough examination once the war ends of exactly what happened, how it happened and who made it happen. That’s something that you have to do,” Netanyahu said.

“But I think right now, our goal is one to achieve victory,” he added.

Pressed as to whether there were military or political failures, Netanyahu responded, “There were failures.”

“The government’s first responsibility is to protect the people. That’s the ultimate enveloping responsibility. People weren’t protected. We have to admit that,” he added.

“Do you hold yourself to that standard that you failed in some way?” Dr. Phil asked.

“I hold myself and everyone on this. I think we have to examine how it happened. What was the intelligence failure?” Netanyahu responds, indicating that he views intelligence chiefs as particularly responsible.

“We can delve into it. But I think the important thing right now is to make sure that we don’t have another failure because the greatest failure would be… if we don’t complete [the counter-attack], if we allow these murderers to be there and to get control of Gaza again… I’m focused right now on achieving this victory,” he adds.

Netanyahu went much further than he has in the past when responding to the question.

In November, he told CNN, “Did people ask Franklin Roosevelt, after Pearl Harbor, that question? Did people ask George Bush after the surprise attack of [September] 11?”

The destruction caused by Hamas terrorists in Kibbutz Re’im on October 7, 2023, near the Israeli-Gaza border, November 26, 2023. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

Top defense officials have come out in the aftermath of Hamas’s massacre of some 1,200 people and abduction of 252 more and have said they bear responsibility for what unfolded. Israel’s military intelligence chief became the most senior official to resign last month in a move likely to be followed by other security officials at some point.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has also accepted responsibility but he is one of the few in the political echelon to do so since October 7, as Netanyahu has insisted on waiting for a state commission of inquiry to make determinations regarding the culpability of the government — one which he insists cannot take place while the war is ongoing.

This stance has exposed him to criticism from opposition lawmakers, members of the National Unity party — which joined the coalition on an emergency basis after October 7 — and media pundits. One of the slogans frequently directed at Netanyahu by the anti-government protests movement has been “You’re in charge. You’re guilty.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with Dr. Phil in an interview released on May 10, 2024. (YouTube screenshot. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

The premier was also asked on Thursday about his latest rift with US President Joe Biden who threatened on Wednesday to withhold offensive weapons from Israel it is launches a long-pledged major offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

“I’ve known Joe Biden for many years — 40 years and more. We often had our agreements, but we’ve had our disagreements. We’ve been able to overcome them. I hope we can overcome them now,” Netanyahu said.

“We will do what we have to do to protect our country, and that means to protect our future. And that means we will defeat Hamas, including in Rafah. We have no other choice,” he asserted.

Later Thursday, the security cabinet reportedly approved the expansion of the IDF’s operations in Rafah. Hebrew media reports described the expansion as “measured,” but it risks a collision with the Biden administration.

Demonstrators lock arms after retreating out of their encampment as law enforcement officers push them down Park Avenue and off the University of Arizona campus, Friday, May 10, 2024, Tucson, Az. (Kelly Presnell/Arizona Daily Star via AP)

In an apparent shot at Biden and others, Netanyahu told Dr. Phil that some world leaders privately tell him that Hamas needs to be destroyed, but “when they are faced with all this propaganda, all this madness in the campuses… they begin to fray, some of them. But I don’t fray. We’ll do what we have to do to protect ourselves.”

Asked further about the anti-Israel unrest at US universities, Netanyahu said Hamas’s stated aim of destroying Israel “is not resistance.”

“You have a lot of ignorant people, who I’m sorry to say, whose sense of history at best goes back to breakfast, not even that. They don’t have the faintest clue what Hamas is,” the prime minister said, citing Hamas’s treatment of LGBTQ individuals and women.

“When they say ‘from the river to the sea,’ that’s wipe out the State of Israel. They’re supporting genocide. Now, this is a sorry state of American education… There’s a deep rot and a bankruptcy there,” he added.

Dr. Phil then asks Netanyahu about surging antisemitism in the United States, which the premier blames on “a fusion of radical Islam and the ultra-anarchist left.”

“The only thing they agree on is that Israel has to be destroyed and America has to be destroyed,” he said.

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