Photo Credit: YouTube screenshot
PM Netanyahu showing the postcard he received from the mother of a fallen soldier, January 18, 2024.

At the start of his press conference in Tel Aviv Thursday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu showed a postcard he received from “Neta, the mother of the late Yinon Tamir, a soldier in the Paratroopers Brigade, who fell in the battles in Gaza.”

“She wrote to me: ‘So that we know that they did not fall in vain, destroy the evil,’” Netanyahu said, and then, after a dramatic pause, declared, “Neta, I would like to tell you and all of the bereaved families: Yinon and his heroic friends did not fall in vain. We will destroy the evil of Hamas.”

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Theatrical? For sure. But theater is how great leaders communicate with their nations, especially in times of war. It was also a political campaign, which is also something great leaders do whenever possible, because in a democracy, the longer one is in power, the more brittle one’s hold on power becomes, and Benjamin Netanyahu, son of Benzion Netanyahu, the secretary of Ze’ev Jabotinsky, is convinced of two things: one, like his late father and his great mentor, the world is full of enemies who conspire every minute of every day to annihilate the Jews; and two, he, Benjamin Netanyahu, is the most qualified to protect the Jewish nation against them.

The longest-serving Israeli prime minister, much like his predecessor, the second-longest serving PM, David Ben Gurion, is not in it for the money or the power. He is driven by his conviction that no one else can navigate Israel’s ship of state better than him – and that is not the sort of message that drives ordinary people, or even ordinary politicians.

This is why I believe Netanyahu was not being cynical when he said Thursday night, “Israel under my leadership will not compromise on less than total victory over Hamas, and we will win. I say this again so that no one will be in doubt: We are striving for total victory, not just ‘to strike Hamas’ or ‘to hurt Hamas’, not ‘another round with Hamas’ but total victory over Hamas.”

HE DID NOT SAY “FROM THE RIVER TO THE SEA”

There was a media bruhaha over Netanyahu’s speech Thursday night, following the translation that was offered by the Israeli channel i24NEWS. They suggested Netanyahu promised that Israel would take over the entire area “from the river to the sea,” which would have been great, in light of three months of pro-Hamas demonstrators who have been drilling that line into our brains. What a pity, then, that Netanyahu said no such thing. Instead, he told the press conference something his temporary coalition partners Benny Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot, and probably Yair Lapid, too: that Israel “must maintain security control over the entire territory west of the Jordan River.”

This is the full segment as translated by i24NEWS, which, by the way, I would have embraced with great joy, except for, you know, reality:

“For 30 years, I am being very consistent and I am saying something very simple: this conflict is not on the lack of a state of Palestinians, but the existence of a state, the Jewish state. Every area that we evacuate we receive terrible terror against us. It happened in South Lebanon, in Gaza, and also in Judea and Samaria. Therefore, I clarify that in any other arrangement, in the future, the state of Israel has to control the entire area from the river to the sea.”
It should, and, God willing, it will, but, alas, he didn’t say it quite that way.

THE WAR SPEECH OF HIS LIFE

In his effort to enlist the nation, which is showing signs of fatigue after 105 days of fighting and the loss of hundreds of soldiers, Netanyahu unabashedly struck Churchillian notes:

“We will continue to fight with full force until we achieve all of our goals: Returning our hostages, and I say – only continued military pressure will lead to their release, eliminating Hamas and ensuring that Gaza never again constitutes a threat to Israel, that there will be no element in it that educates for terrorism, finances terrorism and sends terrorists against us.

“Halting the war before our goals are achieved will harm Israel’s security for generations. I tell you, citizens of Israel, we are not working just to ensure our security today – we are working to ensure our security for generations. Halting the war before the goals are achieved will broadcast a message of weakness and encourage our enemies to think that they can defeat us, and then the next massacre will be only a matter of time; therefore, we will not compromise on less than total victory.

“Total victory requires eliminating the terrorist leaders and destroying Hamas’s military and governing capabilities. Total victory requires returning our hostages home. Total victory requires that Gaza be demilitarized, under Israel’s full security control, with Israeli control over everything that enters Gaza. These are also the fundamental conditions for ‘the day after’. But I would like to emphasize: ‘The day after’ is the day after the elimination of Hamas, and therefore victory comes first of all. It will be achieved only if we stay focused on achieving victory, and on staying united behind our heroic soldiers who are giving their lives to achieve it.

“We will yet have difficulties and challenges along the way, but after the terrible massacre of October 7, we have no other choice. This is a victory that we must achieve for the security of Israel, for our future, and for true peace in our region.

“I promise here before our soldiers, I promise before the bereaved families who have lost what is dearer to them than anything, and I promise before the families of the hostages – we will not stop. We will not finish the war before returning our loved ones home; we will not finish the war before total victory.

“Together we will fight, and with God’s help – together we will win.”

Yours truly never voted for Likud and Netanyahu, somehow, I always found myself either to the left or the right of them. But if you woke me up in the middle of the night and demanded to know who is best qualified to lead Israel today, I couldn’t come up with a better alternative. This is despite the fact that I don’t trust Bibi, who habitually reneges on his promises, and who cares about what the leftist establishment feels about him way more than he does about his right-wing voters. But I still can’t think of anyone better suited to lead today.

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.