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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the U.S. would be "doing a hell of a lot more" after a terror attack

Full Face the Nation interview: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Full interview: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on "Face the Nation," Feb. 25, 2024 14:17

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended the military's response in Gaza, saying that the United States would be doing "a hell of a lot more" if faced with a terror attack similar to Hamas' attack on Israel on Oct. 7.

"What would America do?" Netanyahu said on "Face the Nation" on Sunday. "Would you not be doing what Israel is doing? You'd be doing a hell of a lot more."

More than four months after Hamas' terrorist attack on Israel, Netanyahu's government has been under intense international pressure to halt its offensive in Gaza, as the death toll approaches 30,000 in the region, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Ministry of Health. Meanwhile, President Biden has taken an increasingly sharper public tone with Israel in recent weeks, while balancing support for the U.S. ally as the White House seeks a lengthy pause in the fighting and a hostage exchange. 

Netanyahu said Sunday that Hamas is on "another planet" in the negotiations, though he acknowledged that Israel is "working on it" and wants to see the remaining hostages released. Netanyahu said seeing the remaining hostages freed is part of his three goals, which he reiterated on Sunday. The other goals, he said, are to "destroy Hamas," and to "ensure that Gaza does not pose a threat to Israel in the future."

"Unless we have total victory, we can't have peace," Netanyahu said. 

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on "Face the Nation," Feb. 25, 2024. CBS News

The Biden administration and the Israeli leader have diverged on the path forward in recent weeks, as the White House aims for Palestinian governance of Gaza and a two-state solution in the long term, which Israel's government opposes.  

Last week, Israel formally opposed recognizing Palestinian statehood unilaterally, suggesting that a decision would have to be made through negotiators. The Netanyahu-backed move preempts international pressure, amid discussions about recognizing a Palestinian state absent a deal. 

Netanyahu touted the vote on Sunday, saying "the Israeli people are united as never before," while adding that "the policy is right."

The comments come after Israel's finance minister announced new plans in recent days to build thousands of homes in settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, following a fatal shooting attack by Palestinian gunmen. The Biden administration said the plan is inconsistent with international law.


"Our administration maintains a firm opposition to settlement expansion and, in our judgment, this only weakens, doesn't strengthen Israel's security," U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters on Friday, adding that the U.S. is "disappointed" by the announcement. 

Mr. Biden has also urged Netanyahu in recent weeks not to proceed with an invasion of the large southern Gaza city of Rafah, where around 1.4 million Palestinians have sought shelter from the war. Mr. Biden has repeatedly urged Israel not to move forward unless it had a "credible" plan for ensuring the safety of the people sheltering there.

Netanyahu said Sunday that once the Rafah operation begins, "the intense phase of the fighting is weeks away from completion." He said he has been meeting with officials imminently on a plan to evacuate Palestinians out of Rafa, and he said that Israel has "gone to extraordinary lengths" to notify people in Gaza about incoming bombardments more broadly. 

"We'll clear them out of harm's way, we'll complete the job and achieve total victory, which is necessary to give a secure future for Israel, a better future for Gaza and a better future for the Middle East," he said.

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