PM dismisses statements by far-right allies that were cited at The Hague genocide hearing

Sam Sokol is the Times of Israel's political correspondent. He was previously a reporter for the Jerusalem Post, Jewish Telegraphic Agency and Haaretz. He is the author of "Putin’s Hybrid War and the Jews"

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismisses statements made by far-right members of his government that were cited in South Africa’s genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice, declaring they have no bearing on Israeli operations in the field.

“Across the political spectrum, things have been said and they carry no weight –  for one reason: What matters is the government’s policy as determined by the government and the cabinet,” Netanyahu tells reporters during a press conference in Tel Aviv.

“The IDF avoids harming noncombatants, this is our policy,” he argues without explicitly condemning his political allies.

Asked about the decision to not allow Palestinian civilians to return to northern Gaza until all the hostages are returned, Netanyahu says Israel’s policies adhere to the laws of war.

“There is an international law and it says a simple thing: You remove a population to keep it away from a combat zone, and you do not return it as long as the danger exists,” he says. “There is extensive fighting in the northern Gaza Strip and we will not bring residents back while there is fighting.”

Asked if Israel intends to retain control over the Philadelphi Route, also known as the Philadelphi Corridor, which runs for 14 kilometers (8.7 miles) along the Gaza-Egypt border, Netanyahu says this is “one possibility for what I call a southern barrier.”

“We will not end the war without closing this breach. Otherwise, we will not eliminate Hamas, we will not demilitarize Gaza and then more weapons will enter through this southern breach. Obviously, we need to close it. There are several options and we have not yet made a decision,” he says.

Regarding Secretary of State Blinken’s demand that Israel hand over to the Palestinian Authority tax revenues it collects on the PA’s behalf, Netanyahu says the money has been transferred to the PA: “It is sitting in their bank account.”

The PA has not withdrawn it, however, he says, “because they insist that we give money to people in Gaza, and we don’t want to give money to people who helped or could help Hamas, in the murders it carried out or will carry out. So we don’t give that money.” But the tax revenues owed to the PA, he says, “we have transferred.”

Additionally, Netanyahu expresses approval of IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi’s announcement of an internal probe into the military’s mistakes ahead of October 7, saying an external investigation into the matter would be counterproductive at this time.

He says it’s “obvious” that the military needs to examine itself operationally but when it comes to an outside probe, “I think there is no one who wants the commanders in the IDF to be looking for lawyers instead of dealing with the fighting.”

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