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The speech Bibi must give before Israel enters Rafah

The government has failed to make clear to its global allies the steps Israel is taking to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking in a video message to the Israeli public on April 21, 2024. (Roi Avraham/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking in a video message to the Israeli public on April 21, 2024. (Roi Avraham/GPO)

Since October 7, despite the false accusations of genocide, Israel has fought a just war against Hamas with the highest moral standards. While this has not always been done perfectly – nothing ever is – the commitment to avoiding unnecessary harm to civilians, even in the face of Hamas’s despicable tactics, has been easily demonstrable.

Despite this, we have lost the war of narratives. We have lost because the government has not done enough to explain the careful way we fight to international audiences. Instead, its messaging has focused on the government’s political base, sacrificing our international support and proving Kissinger’s dictum that “Israel has no foreign policy, only a domestic one.”

President Biden stated clearly after October 7 that Israel had the right and the obligation to destroy Hamas and return our hostages. He also emphasized that Israel needed to fight the war according to international law. Israel has done so, but in its messaging, whether in English or in Hebrew, our leaders haven’t emphasized this enough.

This negligent approach has threatened our international support and played into the hands of Hamas, allowing them to maintain hope that they can retain power at the end of the war. Now, with an operation in Rafah finally on the horizon, there is a second chance to rectify this mistake.

Biden hasn’t said that Israel shouldn’t enter Rafah. He has simply warned us about the risks of a large-scale operation there. So let’s heed his words. Let’s fix the mistakes from earlier in the war. Above all, let’s enter Rafah, because if we don’t, Hamas will survive.

With that in mind, this is what Prime Minister Netanyahu should say to Israel’s citizens in a speech before the operation in Rafah begins:

My fellow Israelis,

Tonight, I ordered our army to finally begin a surgical, targeted campaign in Rafah. The aim of the campaign is to eliminate the final remaining Hamas battalions in Gaza, to arrest or kill their leaders, and bring our hostages back home.

We have prepared for this operation for months, to ensure that we are able to act in accordance with international law – just as we always have.

This is a war against Hamas, not the people of Gaza. This is a war to defend Israel and Israelis from a brutal and imminent threat.

By winning this war, we will free innocent Palestinians from Hamas.

Accordingly, with the help of the American administration and our other allies, we have prepared sufficient humanitarian aid and made arrangements for Gazans who don’t want to be caught up in the fighting. We have worked tirelessly to evacuate civilians from the area. This is our duty as a democracy and in the spirit of our Jewish heritage.

We now call on Hamas not to use their fellow Palestinians as human shields and to allow those still in Rafah to move freely to the safe zones.

If the Hamas leadership surrenders and agrees to return our hostages unconditionally, the war will end immediately. Yahya Sinwar holds the key to the lives of the people of Gaza: he can either free them or keep them as human shields, but he will not stop us from entering the city to fight his terrorist battalions.

The world must understand: Our commitment to destroying Hamas is unwavering. We are a sovereign nation that is no longer willing to live with this terrorist organization on our border. We are also committed to returning our hostages, including women and children and sick, elderly citizens. This is my responsibility as prime minister.

Starting tonight, using all the intelligence we’ve gathered during more than six months of fighting, we will launch a surgical campaign against Hamas, in accordance with international law and while meeting the humanitarian needs of the local people.

This is a just war against Hamas, not the Palestinians. A war that we will continue until we have achieved total victory.

We must state our case honestly and openly. We must rely on the support of our allies and work to maintain it. And we must destroy Hamas.

We know that without defeating the Hamas battalions and leaders in Rafah we cannot achieve our objectives, but we also know that we need to be smart, not just right, and if we aren’t scrupulous about international law and humanitarian aid, we will lose our allies and political support and might win the military battle but lose the war.

This is not an impossible dilemma but one that requires sensitivity and care.

If we don’t adopt a new approach, we have no chance of victory. It is time for Israel to be decisive and to do what needs to be done in the only way that will bring success.

About the Author
Mati Gill is CEO of AION Labs, a venture studio with a first-of-its-kind company creation model for new start-ups utilizing AI for drug discovery and development. Prior to founding AION Labs, Mati was a senior executive at Teva Pharmaceuticals and served as Chief of Staff for Israel’s Minister of Public Security. He is an IDF veteran (Maj. res.)`and currently serves on the boards of the Israel Advanced Technology Industries Association (IATI) and the Israel America Chamber of Commerce (AmCham).
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