Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that “everyone will have to give answers,” including himself, on the failures that led to Hamas’s bloody invasion on October 7, the closest he has come to taking responsibility for not anticipating the devastating attack.
First, though, he said, Israel must win what he described as “a fight for our existence.” He promised that a ground incursion into Gaza was coming soon, to wipe out Hamas and seek to return the hostages.
“October 7 was a black day in our history. We will get to the bottom of what happened on the southern border and the Gaza-envelope area,” Netanyahu said in a live primetime address.
“The debacle will be checked to the full,” he added. “Everyone will have to give answers on the debacle — including me — but all that will happen only after the war.”
Netanyahu said that as prime minister, “I am responsible for securing the future of the country. And right now, my job is to lead the State of Israel and the people to a crushing victory over our enemies. Now is the time to join forces for one goal: to surge forward to victory… with deep faith in the justice of our cause.”
While a series of senior Israeli officials have said in recent weeks that they take responsibility for the massive failures that enabled thousands of Hamas terrorists to storm across the Gaza border, killing 1,400 people — most civilians — and taking at least 224 captive, Netanyahu has so far refused to do so.
The prime minister has also not taken questions from reporters since the start of the war, nor has he held any interviews with local or foreign media outlets.
Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi and Shin Bet head Ronen Bar have already taken responsibility, as have Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who is also a minister in the Defense Ministry. Former prime minister Naftali Bennett, who served from June 2021 to June 2022, has also said that he bears responsibility for the disaster.
Most of Netanyahu’s speech on Wednesday provided little new information about the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, though he vowed that a purportedly delayed ground invasion to destroy the terror group in Gaza was close at hand.
“We are preparing for a ground incursion. I won’t specify when, how, how many. I also won’t detail the range of considerations, most of which the public is not aware of,” he said. “And that’s the way it is supposed to be. This is the way, so that we protect our soldiers’ lives.”
Netanyahu said the members of the narrow war cabinet and the IDF chief of staff had agreed “unanimously” on the timing of the ground incursion, appearing to push back on reports of disagreement among the highest echelons, as well as of US pressure to delay the move.
“Israel is in the midst of a fight for our existence,” he said, noting that the war’s two aims are “to eliminate Hamas by destroying its military and governance capabilities, and to do everything possible to get our hostages back.”
He described the overall goal as “saving the nation, achieving victory.”
“All Hamas members are dead men walking — above and below ground, inside and outside Gaza,” he said. “Together with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Minister Benny Gantz, the security cabinet, the chief of staff and heads of the security organizations, we are working around the clock in order to achieve the war aims until victory, and doing so without political considerations.”
Netanyahu said that so far, thousands of Hamas terrorists have been killed, “and that is only the beginning… we will extract the full price from those murderers, those perpetrators of atrocities… from Hamas-ISIS.”
He said the huge pain of the loss of 1,400 people in Hamas onslaught is not forgotten, referring to “our brothers and sisters who were slaughtered in cold blood and who fell in heroic battles” against the predators, and promised to establish days of mourning in memory of those killed in the assault.
Netanyahu also vowed that the devastated southern kibbutzim and communities will be rebuilt, and that government ministries will take care of the estimated 200,000 people displaced in Israel.
Netanyahu said that Israel is enlisting the help of world leaders, and that they now understand that “Hamas is ISIS, and ISIS is Hamas.”
“Our war against Hamas is a test for all of humanity,” he said. “It is a fight between the Iran-Hezbollah-Hamas axis of evil and the forces of freedom and progress. Light will defeat darkness.”