February 24, 2024

According to opinion polls, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, is losing popularity. Voters want him to leave office after the war in Gaza ends—if not sooner. Netanyahu has faced widespread criticism for allowing the October 7th attacks to occur. Some members of his own Likud Party have argued that he is not fighting the war decisively enough. According to the Gaza Health Ministry’s figures, nearly twenty thousand Palestinians in Gaza, forty per cent of whom were children—have been killed. One of those members is Danny Danon, a Knesset member and a fierce opponent of a Palestinian state. The Times of Israel reported that Danon is “gearing up to face Netanyahu once more.”

I recently spoke by phone with Danon. We discussed whether Israel is trying hard enough to reduce civilian casualties, what Danon’s vision for the West Bank and Gaza is, and whether the Israeli right will ever accept a Palestinian state.

How do you think the war is going right now?

Well, we knew from the beginning that it would be hard and long. We didn’t start the war and we are determined to achieve the goals of the war, which is eliminating Hamas and bringing back the hostages. We have to be strong and work precisely with a lot of power.

Do you think that the Israel Defense Forces are being precise in how they’re carrying out their mission?

Yes, the I.D.F. is working slowly to minimize casualties for the civilians in Gaza, acting cautiously due to the urban population.

There’s been some criticism of Netanyahu, from people on the right of his Party and other ministers, that he’s not acting boldly enough. Do you share that criticism?

The Prime Minister is handling the war effort with a lot of responsibility and there is a lot of pressure. We hear a lot about the humanitarian requests of the Palestinians, but we feel that the world is not paying enough attention to the humanitarian requests of the Israeli hostages and their families.

You could also argue that pretty much the entire Western world has given the green light to Israel to engage in this war, no?

No. We didn’t start this war. We had a ceasefire with Hamas until October 7th. I think the international community understands very clearly that we had no choice.

Do you personally feel a lot of care for the civilians in Gaza? Is that something that you worry about?

I regret the loss of life of any civilians, but the blame is on Hamas. They are the ones who actually hide behind the population.

Ten years ago, a soldier named Hadar Goldin was captured, and in the aftermath you said that if you don’t get the soldier back in a few hours, “We should start leveling Gaza.” Do you think that quotes like that make people think that the Israeli government doesn’t care enough about civilian casualties?

You have to look at what we’re actually doing in Gaza today, and we proved to the world that we actually take civilians into consideration.

I think when people saw the news last week that three Israeli hostages had been shot, mistakenly, by the I.D.F., many interpreted it as a sign that Israeli forces were aggressive with people that they thought were enemies, even if they didn’t have weapons.

We regret having a tragic incident. We didn’t expect to see any civilians there, and we have very clear orders that we do not target civilians. Period.

You once suggested that for every rocket strike by Hamas, Israel should “retaliate by deleting a neighborhood in Gaza.” That sounds like a form of collective punishment, rather than doing everything to avoid civilian casualties.

From when is this quote that you are quoting now?