Binyamin Netanyahu

Address to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

delivered 18 February 2024, Jerusalem, Israel


[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]

You know, I've been seeing you here year after year, but this year it's different. Each year you come here to express your solidarity with the state of Israel, the solidarity of the diaspora with the Jewish state. But this year that solidarity is particularly important because it's an expression of unity between the Jewish people and the Jewish state, between so many of our friends around the world, and the great trial that we are faced with today.

We have faced an attack of savagery that is unparalleled since the Holocaust. We haven't seen such cruelty directed against the Jewish people since the Nazi Genocide.

We've seen children murdered in front of their parents, parents murdered in front of their children, women raped and beheaded after being raped.

We've seen youngsters burned alive in death pits.

We've seen mothers and babies kidnapped by these monsters.

We've seen them rejoice over this savagery, something that even the Nazis refused to publicize.

But they came in, these killers with GoPro cameras, to proclaim to the world, to their people, what kind of cruelty and what kind of inhumanity they were capable of. With fiendish glee they showed this murderous horrible action.

That puts us in front of a huge challenge. And our challenge and our goal can be summarized in two words: total victory;1 total victory against these savages. It's not just our battle. It's not just our battle. It's the battle of civilization against barbarism. Because if Hamas gets away with this, if the axis of evil and terror that Iran dominates in this world, or seeks to dominate, the Middle East -- it will expand everywhere. And so this is a battle that is important for Israel's future and our survival, but it's also critical for the future of civilization.

So we set a goal, total victory, and that goal has three missions:
- one, to destroy Hamas;
- second, to free our hostages -- all of our hostages;
- and third, to ensure that Gaza no longer poses a threat to Israel.

Now, when we set out to do this even our best friends said to us, "Can't be done." They said, couldn't be done. They said, "Well, you know, if you go into a ground operation you run into horrible risks." "If you go into Gaza City you're going to go into horrible risks." "If you go into Shifa Hospital, you're going to have to kill all the patients, you might kill all the patients, and all the doctors, and so many civilians."

None of that happened.

They said, "If you go into the tunnels" -- and these are experienced people who were thinking about the best thing that they could offer us, the best advice they could offer us -- they said, "If you go into the tunnels, these are death traps that are impossible." Our soldiers are in the tunnels. Our brave soldiers are in the tunnels demolishing the infrastructure of these killers. They're doing things that were unbelievable.

And they're doing so in exemplary action. We're doing that and things in standards that no army has applied. It's not only I who say this. You should read the words of Colonel John Spencer. He's the head of urban warfare at West Point. He toured several times in Iraq. He says the Israeli Army is going to lengths "to prevent civilian casualties," as no army -- no military has done in comparable situations.2

And he said there is no comparable situation.3

In Gaza, we're facing 30,000 armed terrorists with an underground tunnel -- terror tunnel network of hundreds of kilometers, maybe 500 kilometers. There's nothing comparable like that. He compares this to the Battle of Mosul. Mosul is smaller than Gaza. Mosul had 3[000] to 5,000 fighters, terrorists. It took America and its allies about 9 months. They -- They achieved the conquest of Mosul and the defeat of the terrorists. And the ratio of those of -- of civilians to...combatants killed was about 3:1, some say 4:1. Ten thousand people were killed. We are now down to a ratio of 1:1.

Look, every civilian casualty is a tragedy, but we are doing things to prevent this that simply cannot be compared to any other arena. John Spencer says, "What other army gives advanced notice about where it's going to attack." We have thousands and thousands and thousands of phone calls. We call the Gazan's on their cell phones and we say, "Get out of harm's way." We drop leaflets. We offer safe corridors, safe havens for people to leave. It's incomparable.

He says there is one comparison in World War II -- the Battle for Manila. I wasn't familiar with it. I heard it from him. He says in the battle for Manila there were 17,000 Japanese soldiers and the American Army went in and they found something that they haven't encountered before: systemic tunnels. They weren't called "tunnels." They were called "sewage tunnels," and the Japanese soldiers used the sewage tunnels, which made the fighting a lot more difficult. Manila had a population of one million. A hundred thousand civilians were killed in that battle. The Israeli Army is going to lengths that no other army has done to prevent civilian casualties -- no other army.

Of course, this -- this doesn't prevent the vilification of Israel. This doesn't prevent the horrible slurs and slanders and lies that are hurled against the Jewish state and the Jewish army. I mean, this is incredible. They took us to this farce in the Hague. South Africa accuses us of genocide. Can you imagine? South Africa accuses us of genocide when we're doing everything but genocide against a genocidal foe.

And this is repeated sometimes by world leaders. Today, the President of Brazil, by comparing Israel's war in Gaza against Hamas, a genocidal terrorist organization, to the Holocaust President Silva has disgraced the memory of six million Jews murdered by the Nazis. And he's demonized a Jewish state like the most virulent anti-Semite. He should be ashamed of himself.

You know, we often speak about the history of anti-Semitism. And we say, "How could those lies that were leveled against the Jewish people, these extraordinary falsifications, these -- these unbelievable diatribes that had no basis in fact -- how could they have been believed by so many? But that's exactly what's happening today in the case of Israel. The vilifications, diatribes, and lies leveled against Israel are believed by many.

But I have to say also, there are many who don't believe them and stand by us, beginning with the United States of America in the broad segments of the American public. Yes, there -- there are some who join the demonstrations. The -- The most -- The most absurd thing is "Gays for Gaza." Have you seen this? I mean, you don't want to be gay in Gaza. You don't want to. You can't talk about human rights and talk about the Hamas regime, these monstrous -- this monstrous entity that executes anybody who disagrees with them.

They are now, as we are making every effort to get civilians out of harm's way, Hamas is doing every effort to keep them in harm's way. And when we provide safe corridors, and the Gazan's begin to move there, they try to stop them at gunpoint. And when they can't stop them at gunpoint, they stop them with gunfire. To identify with Hamas and to hurl these -- these lies at Israel is to side with the barbarians. But I want to tell you, none of this will stop us. None of this will stop us -- none of it. We're committed to total victory, and total victory means the release of the hostages.

This is not something that is -- that is simple. It's very hard. I'm not sure that any government has quite -- faced quite such a predicament. It has horrible dilemmas. The release of hostages is an imperative in -- in the Jewish tradition, but it faces -- it puts decision makers in very difficult situations.

You know, when you're young and you're a soldier in a special unit, you don't quite understand that -- because I've had my own personal experience. This has accompanied me in my life. I was wounded in the rescue of hostages from a hijacked Sabena airplane.

My older brother Yoni died while leading the Entebbe rescue of 103 Jewish hostages.

Recently, we achieved the release of 110 hostages. That's a very important number. It's not enough. We still have a way to go, but we released the majority of hostages which is -- living hostages -- which is very, very crucial. And most recently, a few days ago we achieved a -- a wonderful rescue of two hostages, two additional hostages, by our brave soldiers.

Our formula is very simple: The release of hostages can be achieved through strong military action and tough negotiations, very tough negotiations. That tough position has to involve the exertion of pressure. And the exertion of pressure is not merely on Hamas itself but on those who can exert pressure on Hamas, beginning with Qatar. Qatar can press Hamas as no one else can. They host Hamas leaders. Hamas is dependent on them financially. And I urge you to press Qatar to press Hamas, because we want our hostages released. I hope that we can achieve a deal soon to release more of our hostages, but deal or no deal we have to finish the job to get total victory.

I had recently a very good conversation with President Biden. I very much appreciate the support that he and the U.S. government have been given us since the beginning of the war. Sometimes we have differences of opinion but we've been able to overcome them. And I want to tell you that I agree with President Biden that we need to do everything in our power to get civilians out of harm's way as we complete the job.

We've destroyed three-quarters of Hamas's fighting battalions. It's very important to understand they have organized battalions where people -- where commanders give orders to companies or to -- to organize fighting formations, and you can say -- you can have a hundred people attack the Israeli Army from this direction or 50 people attack them from that direction. Once you destroy the battalions there is no organized command and control structure. You're left with individual terrorists which we mop up with ground action, which is much less intense.

We cannot leave a quarter of Hamas's terrorist battalions intact. No one would do that in the case of fighting ISIS. You wouldn't leave a quarter of ISIS intact in a defined territory. You wouldn't even think about that -- and you didn't. America finished the job with its allies; we will finish the job here with our brave soldiers. And we will make sure that the civilian population has a way to get out of harm's way to safe corridors and to safe zones.

I hope we can also reach an understanding on the day after Hamas. But here's the critical thing: The day after Hamas is the day after Hamas is destroyed. The emphasis is on after -- after Hamas is removed from the scene. And I can tell you one thing that -- I think we can agree on many things -- but one thing Israel cannot agree to is in international diktat that would seek to unilaterally recognize a Palestinian State, basically force a Palestinian State on Israel, after the horror of October 7th. And you should know that the people of Israel are really united in this.

I brought today a resolution before the government. I want to read it to you:

Israel utterly rejects international diktats regarding a permanent settle settlement with the Palestinians. A settlement, if it is to be reached, will come about solely through direct negotiations between the parties without preconditions. Israel will continue to oppose unilateral recognition of a Palestinian State. Such a recognition in the wake of the October 7th massacre would be a massive and unprecedented reward to terrorism and would prevent any future peace agreement.

This passed unanimously in the government today. It will pass to tomorrow in the Knesset, I think, with an overwhelming majority.

And I hope that the Conference can consider adopting this statement as well. This will send a message of unity, unity inside Israel, unity outside Israel, unity between us. And I have to tell you again, you can see this when you go outside; you can see that in the taxi cabs; you can see it if you walk into a restaurant or in the lobby of a hotel where you're staying at: Israel is united as never before; the Army is united as never before; the public is united as never before; and we are united -- and we are united with you for one thing: total victory. Total victory will give us security. Total victory will give us peace and an expansion of the peace with our Arab neighbors. And total victory will ensure our future.4

Thank you, friends.
Thank you, the Conference of Presidents.

1  Allusion to President Harry  S. Truman's speech following the conclusion of the Allied victory over Germany in WWII. Later in the speech, the definition of total victory is circumscribed ("total victory means the release of the hostages") via distinctio

2 See here, here, here

3 "The reality is that when it comes to avoiding civilian harm, there is no modern comparison to Israel's war against Hamas. Israel is not fighting a battle like Fallujah, Mosul, or Raqqa; it is fighting a war involving synchronous major urban battles. No military in modern history has faced over 30,000 urban defenders in more than seven cities using human shields and hiding in hundreds of miles of underground networks purposely built under civilian sites, while holding hundreds of hostages. Despite the unique challenges Israel faces in its war against Hamas, it has implemented more measures to prevent civilian casualties than any other military in history." [Source: here]

4 The rousing conclusions features two anaphoras ("we are united," "total victory" to emphasize unity and victory for the immediate audience

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Page Created: 2/27/24

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