‘You cannot back Israel’s right to exist while opposing Rafah operation,’ Netanyahu tells AIPAC conference

Rebuffing criticism from Biden administration, Netanyahu says Israel must and will destroy Hamas forces on Gaza border town of Rafah.

By David Rosenberg, World Israel News

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that the IDF will operate in the Gaza border town of Rafah, and will not be deterred by criticism and warnings from foreign allies.

Speaking at the 2024 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference in Washington D.C. Tuesday, Netanyahu offered veiled criticism of the Biden administration and other Western governments which have pressure Jerusalem not to carry out its much-anticipated ground operation in Rafah.

Located on the border with Egypt, Rafah is the last remaining Hamas stronghold in the Gaza Strip.

Complicating a potential IDF operation is the presence of over one million internally displaced Gazans, who have swelled Rafah’s population roughly ten-fold, from roughly 170,000 before the war to 1.7 million.

The U.S., France, and Britain have urged Israel not to make any armed incursion into Rafah, with the Biden administration reportedly considering imposing conditions are arms sales to Israel should the IDF enter the border town.

In his address at the AIPAC conference Tuesday, Netanyahu reiterated his government’s determination to clear out Hamas forces in Rafah, warning that failure to destroy the terrorist infrastructure in the city would enable Hamas to eventually retake the Gaza Strip.

“Let me be clear, Israel will win this war no matter what,” Netanyahu said.

“To win this war, we must destroy the remaining Hamas battalions in Rafah. If not, Hamas will regroup, rearm and reconquer Gaza and then we’re back to square one. And that’s an intolerable threat that we cannot accept.”

“We will destroy Hamas, free our hostages and ensure that Gaza doesn’t ever pose a threat to Israel again.”

Israel will create a safe passageway for civilians to leave combat zones in Rafah, Netanyahu emphasized.

“We will finish the job in Rafah while enabling the civilian population to get out of harm’s way. We’ve taken measures to minimize civilian casualties that no other army has taken in history. Just ask Colonel John Spencer, a world expert on urban warfare, in charge of urban warfare at West Point. We have taken measures to minimize civilian casualties that no other army has taken in history.”

The Israeli premier chastised allied governments who have criticized the IDF’s use of force in Gaza against Hamas, and called on Israel not to enter Rafah.

Read  Mass exodus of Gazans from Rafah as IDF operation looms

“To our friends in the international community, I say this: you cannot say you support Israel’s right to exist and to defend itself and then oppose Israel when it exercises that right.”

“You cannot say you support Israel’s goal of destroying Hamas and then oppose Israel when it takes the actions necessary to achieve that goal. You cannot say that you oppose Hamas’s strategy of using civilians as human shields and then blame Israel for the civilian casualties that result from this Hamas cynical strategy.”

“For Israel, every civilian death is a tragedy. For Hamas, every civilian death is a strategy. So it is wrong and immoral to hold Israel to a standard for avoiding civilian casualties that no other country on earth is held to.”