Benjamin Netanyahu has said that the ongoing conflict in Gaza is a pivotal struggle between the fundamental values of western liberalism and jihadism.
In a thirty-minute TalkTV interview with British journalist Douglas Murray, the Israeli leader emphasised the clash between “liberty, choice, freedom, the rights of minorities” and what he labelled as “barbarism,” pointing to the need for the West to prevail in the face of regional threats.
Netanyahu also came closer than he has previously to offering an apology for the security failures on October 7 which left 1,200 Israelis dead.
When Murray asked the Israeli PM “what went wrong on that day”, Netanyahu said: “Quite a few things and we’ll examine it when the war is over.” He said it was “too premature” to talk about specific government failings.
But he added: “There is a responsibility for a government to protect its people. Clearly, we failed.”
In the interview, Netanyahu emphasised that the war in Gaza is part of a broader struggle. “This is part of a major confrontation between the moderate axis of Israel in the modern Arab states against Iran, the terror axis of Iran which is the three H's: Houthis, Hezbollah, Hamas, and others,” he said.
He urged the world to recognize the significance of the conflict. “The whole world is watching,” he said. “Will Iran win or will Israel win? Will they win, or will the West win?”
He said that if Israel does not win the war, “Iran will emerge unchallenged and conquer the Middle East.”
The PM warned, “If barbarism wins here, Europe will be next, America will be next.”
"I say to our American friends, the war will take as long as it takes. But it will result in total victory because this, our battle, is your battle and our victory is your victory as well.”
Netanyahu added that “Iran will develop unchallenged nuclear weapons; it will develop ballistic missiles to threaten Europe and the United States. This is part of a larger battle, and everyone has a stake in Israel winning.”
He went on: “We’ve worked to delay Iran’s quest for the [nuclear] bomb for a decade.” He said he had fought, "sometimes alone”, against Iran’s programme of nuclear development.
In referencing to protests against the war in Gaza, Netanyahu said: “Most of the leaders I talk to get it, it’s a question of whether they can withstand the pressures. We can.”
Netanyahu used a quote from Winston Churchill, to which he has previously referred. “Churchill used to say democracies sleep until the jarring gong of danger awakens them,” he said. “Too many countries and too many leaders have been asleep.”
On the threat from Hezbollah in the north, the PM said, “Hezbullah underestimated our military capacity and, more certainly, our resolve.”
Netanyahu suggested that other terror groups doing Iran’s bidding include the Houthis in Yemen and Hezbollah in Lebanon.
“For them, this is all one big battle of civilization. Our civilization, against their wanton aggression, their violence, their rejection of all the values that we hold dear, the ideas of liberty of choice of freedom,” Netanyahu said.
“The rights of women, the rights of minorities, the rights of gays, all of that they want to sweep away. And the question is, do we stand, or do we fall?”
Netanyahu told Murray: “We can’t cut deals with Hamas,” but emphasised Qatar’s power in the negatiations.
Murray noted: “Qatar hosts the leadership of Hamas, it funds Hamas,” and Qatar was “caught spying on a number of US Senators.”
When Murray asked if Qatar would use its influence to free the hostages, the PM said, “I expect them to do it.” He continued: “Well, I think that the entire world is looking at Qatar, and they want to see if they use all the means at their disposal. They have significant means. And again, I expect them to do it. And I expect other countries should as well.”
“I expect Qatar to live up to its promise to use its influence and achieve the release of hostages and delivery of medicines right away,” said Netanyahu.
He added, “I think they have enormous leverage over Hamas.”
He noted the scale of death and destruction caused by Hamas and said October 7 was “the worst savagery perpetrated against the Jewish people since the Holocaust.”
“The savages wanted to annihilate every Jew. The difference [between October 7 and the Holocaust] was not in intent, the difference was in capability.”
The PM went on: “In the death caps, the Nazis murdered thousands of Jews each day and we could do nothing. Now when they [Hamas] murdered 12,000 innocent people, the next day - even though we had these failings on that day which will be examined - we rolled them back, and now we’re going after these Hamas monsters in Gaza.”
“We have the capacity to defend ourselves, [which is] something the Jewish people couldn’t do in the Holocaust."
When Murray asked who could oversee Gaza after the war, the PM said: “One thing is clear, it shouldn't be the United Nations special agency that was set up for the Palestinians.
"We need in Gaza, not only a full victory against Hamas, but demilitarisation, sustained demilitarisation. That can only be handled by Israel. If you have another international force that can fight the resurgence of terrorism, let me know."
“It shouldn’t be UNWRA in charge of schools”, and schools should stop “teaching the eradication of Israel.” He said “deradicalisation takes time”.
Before the war, “no one would agree amongst the Israeli public to go in and destroy Hamas. We didn’t have national or international consensus. Both conditions were created because of the Hamas savage attack on Israel on October 7.”
He affirmed: “There is no substitute for total victory.”