Photo credit: Amos Ben Gershom

President Isaac Herzog, yesterday evening (Wednesday), gave an interview to French news channel BFMTV. In the interview the President addressed the comments made by UN Secretary General António Guterres. He reiterated his appreciation for the visit of France’s President Macron, and stressed Israel was facing a brutal enemy that celebrated death and hid behind its own people as it carried out terror attacks against Israeli citizens. He stressed Israel’s commitment to international humanitarian law.

During his interview, the President said: “I heard the comments of the Secretary General of the United Nations Guterres. In a way he eluded as if the source of all this evil has to do with the conflict. I absolutely reject his words. Because there was a sort of implication or even consent for atrocities, for terror. The problem with the conflict is terror. The most inherent problem that derails the peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians has to do with terror. We have been suffering endless terror – day in day out. In the last year as President, I visited mourning families all throughout the country. But now we have seen the most atrocious example of what terror is all about. Since World War Two, since the Holocaust, there hasn’t been such a number of Jews killed in one day.”

He stressed: “There is a civilization out there, of ISIS, of Hamas, of Al Qaeda – and all of these organizations, the Houthis, all they want is basically to swarm, to conquer the Middle East, to get the Jews out, and next will be Europe, you have to study their philosophy. This coalition of evil starts from Iran. It has forks all over the Middle East. This is their life their lifelong vision, and they’re using the most brutal means possible, atrocious means that we never believed we will see following the Holocaust, that we will see them in modern times.”

He explained, “First and foremost, we have to uproot the military capabilities of Hamas,” and added, “How does one make security? How does one protect the civilians living there? We didn’t want to go to war. We do not want to be warmongers. We are simply protecting and defending our people. And on 7th October in the morning, there was a war waged at us, at Israel and its people, and we have to protect and defend ourselves, first and foremost, to take the capabilities of Hamas out of the homes of people in neighborhoods, underneath the ground and above ground with a huge amount of weapons, dangerous and lethal weapons, and make sure that people can go on with their lives. Perhaps it will also help the Palestinians in Gaza to take control of themselves and live in prosperity in the future.”

“One has to know the truth. There’s no electricity in Gaza because of Hamas missiles, their missiles blow up the wires that carry the electricity. We are not interfering with the water in Gaza, and we only supply 7% of the water in Gaza. They are the ones who’ve ruined their own infrastructure. You see how tragic this all is? Your taxpayers – like the entire European nations – paid more and more money for infrastructure in Gaza to make the life of the citizens better. Israel in the last few years opened up its borders and enabled tens of thousands of Gazans to work in Israel. All that was shattered by a horrendous terrible attack on our people, killing them with the highest amount of casualties in our history, torturing people and butchering them, and celebrating their heads being chopped and, and children being abducted. This is the situation we’re in. It’s a call of duty for the international community to understand that we are fighting for good. We are fighting evil.”

The President made clear, “We care for our neighbors, we always did, we operate according to international humanitarian law, we’ve asked the civilians to move to a safe zone, a humanitarian zone, and the ones who are blocking them are Hamas. But one has to give us the answer. How exactly are we to defend ourselves? What exactly are we supposed to say to a three-year-old girl who I met today, a beautiful child, whose family has been abducted or killed? What do I tell her? My nation is bereaving in a huge tragedy, and I thank all our friends and supporters all over the world. And when we are bleeding and hemorrhaging, we also rose up as a lion. We are a united, a united people. We have strength, we’ve shown resilience. We came out of the worst atrocities in history. We will come out of this too. We are a strong democracy.”

On the issue of the rise in antisemitism, the President stressed, “We are extremely concerned all over the world. The tragedy is, of course, that the first ones to suffer are Jews, as always, but they are never the last ones to suffer. That is the real issue. It’s not an issue for just Jews to be worried. It’s an issue for all democratic societies and societies and governments around the world to be worried, and take the necessary precaution. I think it’s a major challenge for the world to deal with the rise in antisemitism.”