‘No Mercy to Terror’: Israeli President Isaac Herzog Defends Gaza Airstrikes in Fiery Press Conference

Israeli President Isaac Herzog gave a press conference on Thursday in which he called on the international community to demand Hamas release the hostages taken during the brutal attack launched on Israel last Saturday. 

In his opening remarks, Herzog encouraged the people of Israel and spoke of the support Israel has received thus far, but also expressed concern that this might quickly wane as the situation becomes politicized. (The video picks up a few seconds into his remarks.)

…and friendship and solidarity I see it all over the nation. I see it in the huge amount of volunteering, in the huge amount of mobilization to the Army, in the huge amount of doing good to each other, of helping each other in so many consequences and so many spheres of life.
I encourage my people. I bless the people of Israel. We shall definitely overcome. We shall definitely be victorious. We’ve always done so. It will take time, but we shall overcome, and we shall be victorious.
I met the families of the hijacked and kidnapped citizens of Israel. It was extremely tragic and extremely painful. So many people live in this reality of a nightmare, not knowing their whereabouts, and this — the real facts of of their loved ones. Each and every one of you can imagine that. You’ve met families.
Israel will do whatever it can to bring them back home as soon as possible, safely, but this…requires an immediate call to the International Community not to sit idly by and do whatever it takes to bring them back home immediately. As president of the State of Israel…I ask you all to tell the stories of the victims. I ask you all to remember it because there is a shortsightedness in the cycle of media and news. But the pain — the pain will remain forever. Thank you very much.

Herzog then took questions from the media, and things quickly got tense as he was pressed on the impact of Israel’s response in Gaza. Herzog pointed to the fact that Palestinians in Gaza have accepted Hamas as their leadership. 

During the press conference, the Israeli president specified that his country was at war with Hamas and was not intentionally targeting civilians, but said the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) would fire at civilian targets if terrorists use the sites to target Israel first.
He also expressed frustration with the people in Gaza who allowed Hamas to come into power and remain in power as it continued its hate campaign against Israel.
“This rhetoric about civilians not aware and not involved is absolutely not true. They could have risen up, they could have fought against that evil regime that took over Gaza in a coup d’État,” Herzog said.

Asked by one reporter, “If I may, you seem to hold the people of Gaza — the civilians of Gaza — responsible for not removing Hamas, and therefore, by implication, that makes them legitimate targets…”

Herzog replied with evident frustration: 

No, I didn’t say that…I did not say that — I want to make it clear — I was asked something about separating civilians from Hamas, but with all due respect…if you have a missile in your goddamn kitchen, and you want to shoot it at me, am I allowed to defend myself? Yes. That’s the situation! These missiles are there.  These missiles are launched, the button is pressed. The missile comes out from the kitchen onto my children.

The reporter pressed: “Okay, but the question is this: Ultimately, you can’t remove the people of Gaza —they’re going to be stuck in this neighborhood.”

Herzog continued: “So we have to fight. What do you want us to do?! So we tell them get out, and we fight against the launchers.” 

The reporter followed up, asking what the plan is for when the war is over and Israel will “have to live with them side by side.” 

Herzog replied: 

The plan is we have to make sure that Hamas will not be able to repeat this again. That is the plan. That’s what we are trying to do…With all due respect, I see nations fighting terror, okay? Many decent nations, when they fight terror, they fight terror. We are fighting terror. Humanity has to decide: Are we accommodating terror? Or are we fighting terror? We are fighting terror. And we saw the worst atrocity possible…by a whole campaign of a movement which has major support with our neighbors — major, major, they believe, many people believe in it. I agree there are many, many innocent Palestinians who don’t agree to this, but unfortunately, in their homes, there are missiles shooting at us, at my children, at — on the entire nation of Israel. We have to defend ourselves. We have to full right to do so, and it’s about time that the world understands it. This is the tragedy of using terror, and terror has no —there’s no mercy to terror.

Herzog is undoubtedly right in noting the shortsightedness of the news cycle. Already, in the questions put to him — and in much of the media coverage — it is evident that Israel is going to be cast as the aggressor, which is likely what Hamas (and its benefactors) are counting on. 

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