Prime Minister Netanyahu at today's Cabinet meeting
Prime Minister Netanyahu at today's Cabinet meetingGPO

Prime Minister Netanyahu opened the cabinet meeting in the Kiriya base in Tel Aviv with comments on National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir’s recent criticism of US President Joe Biden.

“I do not need help to know how to manage our relations with the USA and the international community, while still standing strong behind our national interests. Thank God, I have been doing it for several years already.”

“As a sovereign nation fighting for its existence and future, we make our decisions for ourselves, even in cases when we do not agree with our American allies. I want to clarify our policy - the crucial goal is first of all defeating Hamas.”

“Achieving that goal requires three things. First, we must collapse Hamas's battalions. Thus far, we have defeated 17 of 24 of them. Most of the remaining battalions are in the southern region of Gaza and Rafah, and we will reach them eventually.”

“Second, we must clean up what is left after the battalions are collapsed, as our forces are determinedly doing in exceptionally forceful raids in northern and central Gaza. Third, we must neutralize the underground, as our forces are methodically doing in Khan Younis and all sections of Gaza, and which will take more time.”

“We will not end the war before we achieve all of its goals: killing off Hamas, recovering all the hostages, and ensuring that Gaza will not become a threat to Israel again.”

“The efforts to recover the hostages are continuing constantly. As I emphasized in the Expanded Cabinet, we will not agree to every deal or every price. Much of what is said by the media as if we have agreed to it, such as things relating to releasing terrorists, we will simply not agree to.”

“Over the past few days, we have revealed to the world that the UNRWA is collaborating with Hamas, and that part of its employees took part in the October 7th massacre. That only reinforces what we already knew - that the UNRWA is not part of the solution but part of the problem. It has come time to begin the process of exchanging the UNRWA with other organizations that are not connected to supporting terrorism.”

The leaders of the center-left National Unity and Yesh Atid parties condemned National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir for his interview with the Wall Street Journal in which he directly criticized the Biden Administration and said that America would be more supportive of Israel if Donald Trump is reelected.

National Unity party chairman Minister Benny Gantz said that "we can have disputes, even with our largest and most important ally, but they must be conducted in the relevant forums and not through irresponsible statements in the media, which harm the strategic relations of the State of Israel, the security of the state and the war effort at this time."

"The prime minister should call to order the National Security Minister, who instead of dealing with internal security issues - is causing enormous damage to Israel's foreign relations," he said.

Opposition leader and former Prime Minister Yair Lapid said: "The interview that Ben-Gvir gave to the Wall Street Journal is a direct attack on Israel's international standing, a direct attack on the war effort, harmful to Israel's security and above all proves that he understands nothing about foreign policy. I would call on the Prime Minister to restrain him, but Netanyahu has no control over the extremists in his government."

In addition, Shas chairman Aryeh Deri responded to Ben-Gvir's statement by thanking President Biden for his support for Israel.

"The people of Israel will always remember how you stood up for the right of Israel in one of our most difficult hours," he wrote. "You and America are a kingdom of kindness. Even between friends and comrades, there are differences of opinion. You pay a personal and political price to help us and for that, we will thank you forever. God bless you and America."

In his interview, Ben-Gvir stated that "instead of giving us his full backing, Biden is busy with giving humanitarian aid and fuel [to Gaza], which goes to Hamas."

He added, “If Trump was in power, the U.S. conduct would be completely different.”