Naftali Bennett, a member of Israel’s Knesset and head of the Yamina party, gave the terror group Hamas a clear choice Wednesday: stop attacking Israel or risk the annihilation of its leadership.
Bennett issued Israel’s demands to the terror group on the Arabic news channel Al Jazeera. Bennett blamed the Palestinian terrorists for the mounting death toll in Israel and the Gaza Strip and said that all Hamas needs to do to end the violence is “lay down its arms.”
“It’s up to Hamas as long as Hamas keeps [attacking Israel] in order to murder Israelis across the state — by the way, Arabs and Jews alike,” Bennett said. “Hamas already murdered two Arab Israelis in the city of Lod, a dad, 52 years old, and his daughter Nadin, 16 years old, Israeli Arabs who were murdered. A Holocaust survivor, 85 years old, was murdered by Hamas, in her wheelchair.”
“If Hamas thinks they can get away with this, they’re wrong. We’ll hunt down every commander, every post, until we win,” Bennett said. When questioned about dozens of civilians who have died in Gaza from Israeli airstrikes, Bennett said Hamas bears responsibility for those deaths as well.
“Indeed Hamas killed them. Because when you hide your rockets behind women and children, you are effectively murdering your own people,” Bennett said. “We will defend ourselves. And if Hamas decides to turn schools into terror bases, and hospitals, in a cowardly manner, into terror bases, they are responsible for murdering their own people.”
The host then tried to suggest Israel bore some responsibility for the civilian deaths because, in Gaza, the people lack bomb shelters like most Israelis have. Bennett dismissed the notion as “nonsense.”
“Instead of taking its money and investing in hospitals, in schools, in building a future for its people, [Hamas is] spending all its money on terror, on trying to kill Israelis. It’s both stupid and wrong. It’s stupid because they are not going to succeed because we’re strong and we are going to defend ourselves. And, you know, I am in the position now, but make no mistake, we are all united, we stand strong united. And there’s one way for this to stop: For Hamas to lay down its arms. And then, it’ll stop,” Bennett said.
Asked about the political implications on the ongoing war with Hamas, Bennett said that all of Israel stands “united.”
“When we get hundreds of rockets a night on Israel, we all stand united. No one will divide us and we’ll fight back,” Bennett said. “We’re a democracy. I’m darn proud of that, that we’re a democracy. And, yes, part of democracy is the ability to criticize one another, but we in Israel have a sort of an unspoken rule: When we’re at war with an enemy that wants to annihilate us, we stand together.”
Bennett also dismissed claims that the ongoing conflict has sprung out of Hamas’ and Palestinians’ lack of a recognized state or any unjust “occupation” by Israel.
“We gave Hamas everything, unfortunately,” Bennett said, referring to a 2005 agreement in which Israel completely evacuated the Gaza Strip. “If they decide that they want to start governing and stop being a failed terror state which is a miserable future for their own people, they’ll find a peaceful neighbor. But if they continue this, it’s just going to get worse.
“And I’m telling every commander, every soldier of Hamas: We’re after you. We’re coming after you. We’re not going to let off. So you might as well stop shooting at Israel,” Bennett said.
The host then questioned Bennett on the possibility of the so-called proposed “two-state solution.” Bennett rejected such an idea, which would leave Israel sandwiched between Palestinian terrorists in Gaza on one side and Palestinians in Judea and Samaria on the other.
“It would create a terror state that does not exist yet in Judea and Samaria and would effectively deem Israel unable to defend ourselves. The whole width of Israel is just about seven or eight miles,” Bennet said. “We see what they turned Gaza into. No Israeli is going to give up Judea and Samaria and allow them to create a terror state that’s just a few minutes away from my home. Would you?”