Says he will answer questions on Oct. 7 failures after war

On CNN, Netanyahu ducks responsibility: ‘Did people ask Roosevelt after Pearl Harbor?’

PM rejects calls for lengthy humanitarian pauses in fighting; reiterates that PA cannot rule Gaza; says ‘Those who protest for Hamas, you’re protesting for sheer evil’

Carrie Keller-Lynn is a former political and legal correspondent for The Times of Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu takes part in an interview on CNN with host Dana Bash on November 12, 2023. (Screenshot used in accordance with clause 27a of the copyright law)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu takes part in an interview on CNN with host Dana Bash on November 12, 2023. (Screenshot used in accordance with clause 27a of the copyright law)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu again brushed away questions of his responsibility for not preventing the Hamas atrocities of October 7, in US television interviews on Sunday.

He also criticized people participating in rallies in the US and Europe demanding an immediate ceasefire in Israel’s ongoing war against Hamas, and said, “Those who protest for Hamas, you’re protesting for sheer evil.”

And he reiterated that Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority should not take over control of Gaza after the war.

Asked on CNN about the issue of his own responsibility for the failure to prevent Hamas’s October 7 onslaught, in which terrorists slaughtered 1,200 people in southern Israel, most of them civilians, and abducted some 240, Netanyahu replied: “Did people ask Franklin Roosevelt, after Pearl Harbor, that question? Did people ask George Bush after the surprise attack of November [sic] 11?”

He continued: “It’s a question that needs to be asked… and I’ve said we’re going to answer all these questions, including me” after the war.

Bush faced significant criticism from many in the US for his conduct both before and after the September 11, 2001 attacks, although he was ultimately reelected in 2004 for a second term as president.

In his interviews on CNN and NBC, Netanyahu repeated Israel’s assertion that the IDF is working to minimize civilian casualties in Gaza, said that he does not see a way in which the Palestinian Authority could govern the Strip post-war, and discussed the potential of reaching a deal to free some of the hostages being held by terror groups in Gaza.

Netanyahu has not sat down for an interview with Israeli media since the start of fighting on October 7, though he has taken questions from reporters at two press conferences during that period.

Speaking to “Meet the Press” host Kristen Welker on NBC, Netanyahu said there “could be” a potential deal to release some of the 239 hostages Israel believes are being held by terror groups in Gaza, but declined to provide additional details.

“I think the less I say about it, the more I’ll increase the chances that it materializes,” Netanyahu said. “We heard that there was an impending deal of this kind or of that kind and then we learned that it was all hokum. But the minute we started the ground operation that began to change.”

Netanyahu reiterated Israel’s assertion that “military pressure” continues to be “the one thing that might create a deal, and if a deal is available, well, we will talk about it when it’s there. We’ll announce it if it’s achievable.”

Asked if Israel knows where the hostages are currently being held, the premier said: “We know a great deal, but I won’t go beyond that.”

Speaking to CNN’s Dana Bash, Netanyahu rejected international calls for long humanitarian pauses in fighting in Gaza, saying that stopping the fight is “what Hamas wants.”

Netanyahu said Israel will continue to implement hours-long cessations of hostilities in the northern part of the Strip, but not breaks for several days.

“That’s not a pause,” he said in response to a question about a days-long stop. “If you’re talking about stopping the fighting, that’s exactly what Hamas wants. Hamas wants an endless series of pauses that basically dissipate the battle against them.”

Responding to a question about how Israel plans to minimize civilian casualties while attacking Hamas infrastructure at Shifa Hospital, Netanyahu said the IDF continues to press for civilian evacuations and that Israel is in bilateral talks for partners to set up floating hospitals off of Gaza’s coast.

“We call on [non-combatants] to leave, but you obviously wouldn’t give immunity to the terrorists,” he said, saying that Hamas has fired upon civilians to prevent them from leaving the hospitals.

“There’s no reason why we can’t just take the patients out of there, instead of letting Hamas use it as a command center for terrorism,” Netanyahu added, saying France, the United Arab Emirates and others are sending ship-based medical centers.

Netanyahu told NBC that Israel has offered to send fuel directly to the Shifa hospital, but that Hamas refused to accept it. Since the start of the war Israel has repeatedly refused to entertain the possibility of allowing fuel to enter the Strip, warning that it would be diverted to Hamas for war purposes and that the terror group is sitting on a stockpile of fuel it refuses to hand over to hospitals.

In both interviews, Netanyahu rejected the idea that the Palestinian Authority would rule the Gaza Strip after Hamas is eliminated, a stance that contrasts with the vision set out by US officials in recent weeks.

Speaking to CNN, the prime minister said a post-war Gaza must be demilitarized and de-radicalized, and “the Palestinian Authority has unfortunately failed on both accounts.”

“There has to be a reconstructed civilian authority, there has to be something else,” he added. “Remember the PA was already in Gaza. When Israel left Gaza [in 2005], it handed the keys over to the PA.”

Hamas seized control of Gaza in a violent coup against the main Fatah faction of the PA in 2007: “They are not willing to fight Hamas,” Netanyahu said of the Ramallah-based authority.

Netanyahu told NBC that it is “too early to say” who will govern the Strip following the current war. The rulers of the PA “teach their children to hate Israel; they’re paying for slay,” he said, referring to PA payments to terrorists and their families. He added that Palestinian Authority President Abbas said still refused “to condemn this savagery” of October 7.

Netanyahu said Israel plans to maintain “military responsibility” over the Strip after the war because Jerusalem does not trust another entity to prevent terror from creating another stronghold in Gaza.

“I think that the only force right now that can guarantee that Hamas, terrorism does not reappear and taken over Gaza again is the Israeli military. So overall military responsibility will have to be with Israel,” Netanyahu told NBC. “If we want to have peace we have to destroy Hamas.”

White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan responded to Netanyahu’s apparent rejection of returning the PA to Gaza, telling CNN, “There should be unified political leadership across both the West Bank and Gaza. The Palestinian Authority is the political leadership in the West Bank. Over the long term, of course, the determination of how the West Bank and Gaza are governed will be up to the Palestinian people.”

Netanyahu also slammed those taking part in mass protests in the US and across Europe and demanding Israel enact an immediate ceasefire as “misguided.”

“Those who protest for Hamas, you’re protesting for sheer evil,” Netanyahu told NBC News, adding that some demonstrators are “misguided people who do not know the facts.”

Pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel protests, and threats against Jewish students, have been particularly hostile on American campuses, and Netanyahu said the embrace of Hamas’s narrative by some students and faculty is “an indictment of higher education in some of our universities.”

Netanyahu said Israel must win its current war with Hamas, echoing Hebrew-language comments about the need to return security for border region residents.

“There’s no life for us, there’s no future for us” if we don’t win, he said.

Times of Israel staff and Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

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