Both Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman drew parallels during meetings Thursday with visiting British Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond between Israel fighting Hamas and Britain battling the Nazis Netanyahu, after meeting Hammond – who has only been in office nine days – said Britain has a historical understanding of what Israel is undergoing considering its experience in World War II.
“There has only been one other instance where a democracy has been rocketed and pelleted with these projectiles of death, and that’s Britain during World War II,” Netanyahu said.
Israel, he said, was undergoing a similar bombardment and responding by “targeting the rocketeers and seeking to ferret out those terrorists who are hiding behind civilians while firing at our civilians.”
Liberman ratcheted the World War II analogy up a notch, saying during his meeting with Hammond that Hamas – like the Nazis – wants to exterminate the Jews, and has no interest in a two-state solution.
Citing Winston Churchill and his stand against the Nazis, Liberman said Israel expected a “special understanding” from Britain. While London was being bombed during WWII, Liberman said. “we learned from Churchill that even if the price is blood, sweat and tears, a nation that seeks life is obligated to fight with determination for its freedom.”
This was a reference to Churchill’s famous speech to Parliament in 1940, soon after being appointed prime minister in place of Neville Chamberlain, in which he said: “I would say to the House as I said to those who have joined this government: I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.
We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering.”
Hammond arrived Wednesday evening amid intensive international efforts to forge a cease-fire. Speaking alongside Netanyahu, Hammond said the current cycle of violence was “triggered by Hamas firing rockets at Israeli towns and cities in breach of international humanitarian law.” He added that Britain has been very clear Israel has the right to defend itself, but is “gravely concerned by the ongoing heavy level of civilian casualties.”
In an interview later with Sky News, Hammond warned that “As this campaign goes on and the civilian casualties in Gaza mount, Western public opinion is becoming more and more concerned and less and less sympathetic to Israel.”
The foreign secretary said he was “appealing to my Israeli counterparts, to their Western values, to do everything they can in exercising their legitimate right to self-defense to minimize the casualties that are caused.”
Netanyahu assured Hammond that Israel was doing “its best” to limit civilian casualties.
“All the civilian deaths there – and we regret everyone of them – are the responsibility of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad,” he said. While using human shields is “grotesque,” Netanyahu said, “what is equally grotesque is that Israel was condemned by the [UN] Human Rights Council.” Although the decision was a “travesty of justice and truth,” he said, it will “not prevent us from continuing to act to defend our people.”
Netanyahu thanked British Prime Minister David Cameron for “standing up for Israel’s right to defend itself.” He also expressed appreciation that British Airways continued to fly to Israel, even as the US airliners and some other airlines from around Europe and the world temporarily stopped their flights. He thanked Britain for its “moral focus and moral clarity,” and said “we will need it in the days ahead.”