Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered an English version of his earlier remarks to the Israeli media in Hebrew on Wednesday evening, rejecting the idea that Hamas would be allowed to use hostage negotiations to survive the war it started.
Netanyahu’s response came after details of a Hamas counter-offer emerged in ongoing negotiations over a deal to release the Israeli hostages — roughly 136, at least 32 of whom are believed to be dead — in exchange for a pause in the fighting in Gaza.
Hamas wants Israel to withdraw its military completely from Gaza and to stop the fighting — conditions that Israel will not accept. It is also demanding the release of thousands of convicted Palestinian terrorists serving long sentences, among other conditions.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, on a diplomatic mission to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank had already met with Netanyahu earlier Wednesday by the time Netanyahu delivered his address.
Netanyahu’s statement was therefore as much for American consumption as for Israeli consumption. It follows, in full:
Tonight I want to speak to you about total victory.
Our security and the prospects of peace in the Middle East depend on one thing: total victory over Hamas.
At the start of the war, I outlined three goals: destroy Hamas, free the hostages, and ensure that Gaza doesn’t pose a threat to Israel in the future.
Achieving these goals will ensure Israel’s security and pave the way for additional historic peace agreements with our Arab neighbors.
But peace and security require total victory over Hamas.
We cannot accept anything else.
Can you imagine what will happen if we don’t have total victory?
Hamas leaders have already pledged they’ll repeat the October 7th massacre over and over and over again.
No nation can accept that; we certainly won’t.
Without total victory Iran and its terror proxies—Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthis and others—will be emboldened to subvert moderate states in the Middle East; they’ll threaten the entire free world.
Only total victory will prevent that.
And total victory is within our reach.
Israel’s military achievements are truly unprecedented. As John Spencer, head of urban warfare at West Point, noted: It took the United States and its allies nine months to defeat ISIS in Mosul. Mosul is a single city, smaller than Gaza, it doesn’t have any terror tunnels, and it had only five thousand terrorists. Yet in four months the IDF has killed, wounded or captured over twenty thousand terrorists, more than half of Hamas’s fighting force.
We have shattered 18 out of 24 Hamas battalions and we’re mopping up the remaining terrorists with ongoing raids.
Our soldiers are systematically destroying the massive underground terror tunnels. Hamas believed this was an impregnable network.
Yet our brave soldiers are now physically inside these tunnels. They’re demolishing rocket factories, weapons stockpiles, command and control centers, and what Hamas thought were unreachable safe houses.
Now, I have to tell you, we were repeatedly told by many in the international community that all this simply couldn’t be done.
They said that a ground offensive would not be effective, that we couldn’t enter Gaza city because it would be an abominable death trap, that we couldn’t go into the hospitals that served as Hamas headquarters without inflicting massive civilian casualties, and that we couldn’t enter the underground terror tunnels, because nobody could.
Yet our brave soldiers proved them all wrong on all counts.
Many argued that Israel’s military campaign would scuttle our ability to release the hostages. They were wrong on this one too. Military pressure led to the release of 110 hostages, and only continued military pressure will bring home the remaining hostages.
Our soldiers are now in Khan Yunis, Hamas’s main stronghold.
They’ll soon go into Rafah, Hamas’s last bastion. They will do so, as they have done up to now, by providing the civilian population safe passage to safe zones, and they’ll do so in spite of Hamas’ evil attempts to stop the civilians from leaving at gunpoint.
Total victory over Hamas will not take years. It will take months.
Victory is within reach.
When people talk about “the day after,” let’s be clear about one thing. It’s the day after all of Hamas is destroyed. Not half of Hamas, not ¾ of Hamas; all of Hamas.
Once Hamas is destroyed, we need to verify that Gaza is demilitarized, that we stamp out any attempt at the resurgence of terror.
History has shown that only Israel can do this by having overriding security control over Gaza.
What does that mean?
It means that Israel will be in Gaza or act in Gaza at any place and any time that is necessary to ensure that terror doesn’t rears its ugly head again.
Gaza must have a civilian administration staffed with those who do not support terrorism, fund terrorism or indoctrinate their children with terrorism and the goal of destroying Israel.
In fact, we should seek the very opposite–that school children in Gaza will be educated towards peace, that they’ll be educated towards coexistence.
Now, grant you, this will take time, but we’ve seen it happen in other parts of the world and in the Gulf states themselves.
We would welcome the participation of moderate Arab states in creating a different and better future for Gaza.
This would also require that UNRWA—which perpetuates the Palestinian refugee problem, whose schools indoctrinate Palestinian children with genocide and terror, and from whose ranks sprang a dozen terrorist murderers who participated in the October 7th massacre—this UNRWA must be replaced by responsible aid agencies.
We’re at a pivot of history where the region can go either in the direction of light or in the direction of darkness.
We won’t allow Iran’s forces of darkness to win.
Our security and the future of the Middle East require total victory.
Total victory over Hamas can bring us additional gifts of peace.
Our doctrine of peace through strength has already brought us the Abraham Accords, and total victory will help us bring more historical peace agreements.
Hamas is the obstacle blocking a better and more peaceful Middle East, and it’s threatening Israel’s security.
The pressure of the world should be on destroying Hamas as quickly as possible and not on preventing Israel from doing so.
All those who yearn for peace should support our quest for total victory.
Total victory for our security.
Total victory for peace in the region.
Total victory to secure our common future.
Later, in his own press briefing, Blinken made accusation, without evidence, that Israel is trying to “dehumanize” Palestinians.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent book, “The Zionist Conspiracy (and how to join it),” now available on Audible. He is also the author of the e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.