Netanyahu: We made no commitment to a truce on the northern border

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Gallant and fellow war cabinet minister Benny Gantz take a long series of questions at their press conference.

Netanyahu says he is sure Hamas’s Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar will try “to buy extra time” to prevent Israel resuming its Gaza operations after the hostage deal and pause. “We are prepared for other developments too,” he says.

He says he told President Biden just now, “We are taking a pause,” as agreed to in a deal that Biden was part of and initiated, “but we are continuing afterward.”

Asked about previous hostage deals, the premier says, “The greatest threat to our existence” stems from the axis of evil led by Iran and that Iran getting a nuclear weapon would pose unimaginable dangers. He says he did many things to thwart that, “some of which are connected to the deal to release Gilad Shalit,” but he cannot elaborate further.

He says you “take a chance when you free evil people” and Israel “will do everything we can so that they won’t return” to harm people.” But if the deal works, “tens of kids and their mothers and women will come home — hopefully more than 50.”

Gantz reiterates his position that the release of the hostages is an “advance objective,” while the destruction of Hamas is vital “and will take a long time.”

He says “the management of the war and the fate of the hostages and the military operation are not a reality show,” and that the cabinet discussions are serious. “Lives are at stake.”

Netanyahu declines to detail what will happen if Hamas breaches the truce. “As President Biden said to me, an enemy that holds a 9-month-old baby hostage… we know with whom we are dealing.”

Gallant says Hamas “wanted a pause to get some air while we’re pounding it daily. That’s what brought the achievement” of the hostage deal.

Asked about Hezbollah saying it is joining the truce, Netanyahu says he does not know what Hezbollah is saying, but Israel has not undertaken any obligations regarding Hezbollah and the northern front during the truce. Hezbollah will be judged by its actions, he says.

He also says, in the context of Hamas breaching the truce, that “soldiers always are obligated to deal with any threat.”

“We want to get all the hostages back in this deal, and maybe [more] after that” but “we’re not giving them [Hamas] an open check. When the pause is done, we resume the war. It may be that we are forced to do so much earlier.”

If there is a breach, he says, ” we won’t stand there like sheep. We will do what we can so this framework will be honored, but if it is broken, we will know what to do.”

Netanyahu again says that “the Red Cross is part of the agreement” — as agreed by Israel “and the other side.”

“So I expect the Red Cross to act according to that clause” in the deal. “Hamas might not honor it, but it is unthinkable that the Red Cross won’t demand it… If the Red Cross didn’t know — it knows now.”

Most Popular