Our message to Hezbollah is 'don't test us', says Mark Regev

Senior adviser to Netanyahu insists the war is 'not just another round of fighting' in new JC podcast


Israel's former ambassador to the UK has said the Jewish state "refuses to return to the status quo" and live next to Hamas while waiting for another attack from Gaza.

Speaking on the JC's new podcast Israel War Briefing Mark Regev, who is currently serving as a senior adviser to Benjamin Netanyahu, said: "The bottom line is this. Israel refuses to continue living next to a terror enclave that's capable of of of committing the sort of violence we saw on October 7th... That is unsustainable and Israelis refuse to accept it any longer."

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The current war against Hamas is "not just another round of fighting," Regev emphasised, but an existential fight to secure the future of Israel.

Speaking to JC editor Jake Wallis Simons, he said: "There were all these theories that Israel can live with a Hamas controlled Gaza Strip, that the responsibility that Hamas has of governing. 2.3 million people who have forced them to be more responsible forces them to be more pragmatic...

"Well, we saw October 7th that all those theories are just not true. It's just not true. Hamas doesn't give a hoot about the 2.3 million people inside of Gaza and what we saw in the declaration of war against us is that the status quo whereby Israel lives next to this Isis type terror enclave is just not sustainable now.

"And therefore, for the first time, for the first time, Israel has adopted a policy. We will eliminate Hamas, we will dismantle its military machine, and we will destroy its political power in Gaza."

The world's growing understanding that Hamas commits atrocities in the same manner as Isis has been a "game changer" for Israel's fight for international support, Regev claimed.

"I think there's a fundamental understanding that Israel is responding to an atrocious act of violence," he said.

"As we've been saying, the attack of October 7th was the largest terrorist attack in real terms since 911 and the largest single act of antisemitic violence since the Holocaust. And the German chancellor... compared Hamas to the Nazis."

Setting out the aims of the Israeli state's war goals, he said: "The focus now is victory. We have to defeat Hamas. We have to destroy Hamas. We have to create a new reality in Gaza.

"That's the goal. I would just add that to destroying Hamas is not just good for the people of Israel who won't have to live next to this terrorist enclave any longer.

"But it ultimately, I think, is good for the people of Gaza who deserve better than this autocratic theocracy that they live under. I mean, they've been impoverished. They've suffered much.

"They continue to suffer because of that, that terrible regime. And their lives can only get better after we've changed the political reality in Gaza."

Asked why Israel's anticipated ground campaign against Hamas had not yet begun, Regev said the IDF would invade Gaza "at a time of our choosing".

"It's interesting because sometimes we Israelis are depicted as shooting first and asking questions later, overly, you know, overly quick to go for the draw, so to speak," he said.

"And I think we're showing in this operation that that's not the case, that we're being very judicious, that we're thinking two or three steps ahead and that when we do go in and we will it'll be... when we think the conditions are optimal for us."

If Hezbollah attacks Israel, meanwhile, the IDF's response will be "swift and formidable," Regev insisted.

"I'd say to you, and through you to Hezbollah, that Hamas took us by surprise. It was a mistake by Israel. We'll be looking into exactly what happened, to find out why we were surprised, but we won't be surprised in the north."

He added: "We want deterrence in the north. We were not interested in a conflict. But if Hezbollah does start one, it will finish on Israel's terms. And, you know, the people who lose the most, will be the citizens of Lebanon.

"Over the last decade, that country has suffered tragedy after tragedy. I mean, it's been all over the newspaper to the countries imploding economically, and it's ungovernable.

"And there are all these issues that the Lebanese that to deal with Hezbollah, if they launch a war, it'll be a crime against the people of Lebanon who will have to suffer an Israel-Lebanon war that none of them want.

"And it's only if it'll only happen because Hezbollah's doing the bidding of its Iranian patrons."

"Everything we do is in accordance with international law, but we are acting more aggressively because we're at war."

Hailing the importance of the United States in establishing order in the region, Regev said: "If there isn't an explosion in the north, it'll be because the Americans have drawn a line in the sand and convinced Israel's other enemies that they should stay out of this one.

"And I think the recent American strikes against Iranian bases in Syria are a sign that they are saying we're serious about this."

One "strange" effect of Hamas's October 7 attack has been to bring Israel together, Regev added.

"They don't care how we vote. They don't care if we're left wing or right wing, if we're secular or religious.

"They kill us because we're Israelis, because we're Jews. And I think that was a wake up call."

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