Speaking via satellite feed from Israel, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses AIPAC in Washington, U.S., March 26, 2019.
(photo credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – Israel destroyed “major Hamas terrorist installations on a scale not seen since the end of the military operation in Gaza four years ago,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday, in a speech from Tel Aviv to the AIPAC conference here.
Those words, in the prepared text the Prime Minister’s Office released after his brief address, were inaudible to the thousands of AIPAC supporters because of technical glitches in the feed. The audience did, however, hear the prime minister say that he was speaking to them directly after coming from a meeting with the chief of staff and senior IDF commanders, and that “we are prepared to do a lot more. We will do what is necessary to defend our people and to defend our state.”
Netanyahu scratched his appearance at the AIPAC conference and arrived back in Israel on Tuesday to deal with the crisis. Upon arrival he went directly to the Kirya for consultations with top security officials. Perhaps because of the election season, and not wanting to give the New Right’s Naftali Bennett a platform from which to blast his policies, he did not convene the security cabinet.
Netanyahu's speech to AIPAC, March 26, 2019 (Reuters)
According to diplomatic officials, Netanyahu was in continuous contact with the chief of staff during his flight from Washington, and the directive he gave was to continue the attacks inside Gaza.
The official stressed that no agreement to a ceasefire was ever reached, and that this was rumor started by Hamas’s television station.
“The attacks were very hard on the infrastructure, including the office of [Hamas leader Ismail] Haniyeh,” the official said. He said that the destruction of buildings from the attacks was similar to the way Israel finished Operation Protective Edge in 2014.
During Netanyahu’s shortened visit to Washington, US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights was overshadowed by the Hamas missile attack.
Nevertheless, before leaving on Monday, Netanyahu decided to shine the spotlight back on the Golan decision. He called the decision “historic,” and said that it is one that will be “remembered for generations.”
“It took us 50 years to get this,” he said. “This sets an important principle in international life: when you start aggressive wars, and you lose territory, don’t come and claim them afterward.” Israel captured the strategic Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War.
This interpretation was backed up on Tuesday by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was asked whether the US recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan was not a setting a precedent that powerful countries can take over territory against international law.
“Absolutely not,” Pompeo replied. “This is an incredibly unique situation. Israel was fighting a defensive battle to save its nation, and it cannot be the case that a UN resolution is a suicide pact. It simply can’t be, and that’s the reality that President Trump recognized in his executive order yesterday.”
In his address to AIPAC, Netanyahu said that Trump’s decision on the Golan “deserves enormous applause.”
The Golan, he said, is “indispensable for our defense. It is part of our history. When you put a shovel in the ground there, what you discover are the ruins of ancient synagogues. Jews lived there for thousands of years, and the people of Israel have come back to the Golan.”
With the Golan, he said, “Israel holds the high ground, and we shall never, ever give it up. It is part of Israel.”
Netanyahu’s frustration that the Golan decision was overshadowed came out before he boarded his plane back home, chiding reporters on the tamarack that “the fact that you don’t cover this for more than a minute is something that we will hold you accountable for. But in terms of history, this is huge.”
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