Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has once again rejected the idea of a cease-fire in Gaza unless hostages are released, and also addressed Gaza’s future after the war in an exclusive interview with ABC News “World News Tonight” anchor David Muir.
President Joe Biden and top administration officials have been pressuring Israel for temporary “humanitarian” pauses in the fighting so more aid can enter Gaza and more civilians can escape the fighting in the Palestinian enclave.
Biden and Netanyahu discussed the matter as recently as Monday, according to the White House, though no apparent agreement was reached. National security council spokesperson John Kirby said the administration considered the parties to be at the “beginning of this conversation.”
“What they’re proposing is a humanitarian pause, there will be no pause?” Muir pressed Netanyahu, shortly after he had spoken with Biden.
“Well, there’ll be no cease-fire, general cease-fire, in Gaza without the release of our hostages,” Netanyahu responded. “As far as tactical little pauses, an hour here, an hour there. We’ve had them before, I suppose, will check the circumstances in order to enable goods, humanitarian goods to come in, or our hostages, individual hostages to leave. But I don’t think there’s going to be a general cease-fire.”
Netanyahu continued, “I think it will hamper the war effort. It’ll hamper our effort to get our hostages out because the only thing that works on these criminals in Hamas is the military pressure that we’re exerting.”
Muir then asked Netanyahu if there would be such a pause if Hamas to agree to the release of hostages. According to Israeli officials, 241 people are being held by the militant group.
“There will be a cease-fire for that purpose,” Netanyahu responded.
The month-long conflict has killed more than 10,000 people in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry. That number includes 4,104 children. In Israel, more than 1,400 people have died and 6,900 have been injured, the prime minister’s office has said.
Future control of Gaza?
The Biden administration has been walking a diplomatic tightrope as it defends Israel’s right to self-defense against Hamas but also tries to reduce civilian deaths and looks ahead to a path forward for Palestinians after the conflict is over.
Muir, noting Biden previously said it would be a “mistake” for Israel to occupy Gaza, asked Netanyahu who should govern the territory when the fighting ends.
The prime minister indicated he believes Israel will have a role to play for an “indefinite period.” Last month, Israel Defense Minister Yoav Gallant suggested the final phase of the was would be to sever “Israel’s responsibility for life in the Gaza Strip” and establish a “new security reality for the citizens of Israel.”
“Those who don’t want to continue the way of Hamas,” Netanyahu told Muir. “It certainly is not — I think Israel will, for an indefinite period will have the overall security responsibility because we’ve seen what happens when we don’t have it. When we don’t have that security responsibility, what we have is the eruption of Hamas terror on a scale that we couldn’t imagine.”
Asked if the Biden administration agrees with or supports Netanyahu’s view, Kirby said discussions about Gaza’s future are ongoing and nothing has been decided.
“What we support is that Hamas can’t be in control of Gaza anymore,” Kirby said. “We can’t go back to Oct. 6.
“We are having conversations with our Israeli counterparts about what governance in Gaza should look like post-conflict and I don’t believe that any solutions have been settled upon one way or the other,” Kirby continued. “Who’s going to do what and for how long. So, that’s an active discussion that we’re having with, not only Israel but other partners in the region because clearly whatever it looks like, it can’t look like what it did, as I said on the sixth of October.”