Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed CBS News host John Dickerson on Sunday over seeming insinuations Dickerson made that Israel was not being careful to avoid the killing of innocent civilians as it targeted Palestinian terrorists inside Gaza.
Netanyahu noted that Israel was going out of its way to avoid civilian casualties, sometimes having to take “special pains” to prevent innocents from being harmed.
“You know, if Hamas would simply move these rockets out of the civilian areas, if they moved their command posts out of these homes and offices, then there wouldn’t be any problem,” Netanyahu said. “You know it. And I know it. But the fact is they’re sending thousands of rockets on our cities with the specific purpose of murdering our civilians from these places.”
“What would you do?” he continued. “If it happened to Washington or to New York? You know damn well what you would do. You’d do at the very least what we’re doing.”
JOHN DICKERSON: And Mr. Prime Minister, the arguments about how careful Israel have been are familiar ones to your critics. And in this case, with 181 Palestinians dead, 52 of them children, there’s significant criticism. Amnesty International has asked the International Criminal Court to look into a refugee camp attack. The UN is meeting today. Foreign ministers of the EU are meeting, and the response has been like this one from the foreign minister of Ireland: “Israel has international legal obligation to protect children in conflict and are not doing so.”
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: That’s just false. I mean, the reason we have these casualties is because Hamas is criminally attacking us from civilian neighborhoods, from schools, from homes, from office buildings. That’s what they’re doing.
JOHN DICKERSON: But–
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: And we’re taking action, trying to target them with as great precision as we can. Unfortunately, there are occasionally civilian casualties, which we regret. But here’s what happens. When the international community attacks Israel, they’re actually encouraging Hamas to continue these attacks because Hamas says it’s great, we’re both killing Israeli civilians. And unfortunately, some of our — and they’re happy with their own civilian casualties because it gets the international community to focus their attacks on Israel instead of Hamas.
JOHN DICKERSON: But it’s–
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: That’s wrong. It’s both wrong and unproductive. Because actually what it does is prolong the conflict and escalate and increase the number of casualties that happen as a result of the continuation of the conflict.
JOHN DICKERSON: But the question, Mr. Prime Minister, is U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken said that Israel has an extra burden, that Israel, because of its strength and power and dominance, has an extra burden on these questions of casualties. The question is whether Israel is meeting its extra burden in responding to these rocket attacks from Hamas.
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Certainly are, and I can tell you that there have been many studies by serious military analysts who have compared Israel’s actions with that of other Western armies in similar situations, fighting radical Islamists, whether it’s in Iraq or in Afghanistan or elsewhere. And you know how prolonged those conflicts are, how many casualties are caused. So I think there has to be a measure of fairness. There has to be a measure of reasonableness in projecting this kind of criticism against the Israeli army that is second to none in seeking to minimize civilian casualties while protecting our own civilians. You know, if Hamas would simply move these rockets out of the civilian areas, if they moved their command posts out of these homes and offices, then there wouldn’t be any problem.
JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you, Mr. Prime–
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: You know it. And I know it. But the fact is they’re sending thousands of rockets on our cities with the specific purpose of murdering our civilians from these places.–
JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you–
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: What would you do?
JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you–
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: If it happened to Washington or to New York? You know damn well what you would do.
JOHN DICKERSON: Mr. Prime Minister, let me ask–
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: You’d do at the very least what we’re doing.
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