Exclusive: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on what's next in plan to dismantle Hamas
This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," August 7, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
SEAN HANNITY, HOST: Welcome to "Hannity" and day four of our coverage. We are on the ground in Israel. We are in Tel Aviv tonight. And after four weeks of heavy violence between Israel and Hamas, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed reporters yesterday to not only express deep regret for every civilian casualty but also to defend his country's response to the Hamas terror attacks.
Now, earlier today, I sat down for a one-on-one exclusive interview with the minister himself, and he explained what is next on his plan to dismantle this terror group. Let's take a look.
HANNITY: Mr. Prime Minister, great to see you again. How are you?
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Good to see you, Sean. Welcome to Israel.
HANNITY: It's been a rough five weeks for you.
NETANYAHU: For everyone.
HANNITY: Everyone. Every interview that you have given, and yesterday in your press conference, you challenged the world to put themselves in Israel's position, What would you do if your country were attacked by 3,500 rockets? What would you do if tunnels of terrorists were built to attack your citizens?
I want you to expand on that.
NETANYAHU: Well, you know, I think we're in a terrible conflict with a terrible enemy. And we regret -- I personally regret and the people of Israel regret every civilian casualty that we have. Israel does not target civilians. It targets the terrorists.
But here's what these terrorists are doing, terrorists like Al Qaeda and Hezbollah and like ISIS and like Boko Haram. Hamas is no different. They have absolutely no regard for civilians. So the first thing they do is they target our civilians. They fired 3,500 rockets into our cities, covering 80 percent of our population.
Just imagine 250 million Americans will have to be on alert to get into bomb shelters against incoming rockets into American cities. You have 90 seconds at most to go into a bomb shelter.
That's the first thing they do, they target civilians. Then they dig terror tunnels into our territory so they can send death squads to kill our children, our citizens, and kidnap our people. Imagine that, OK?
So what would you do in the United States, or in any country that is now looking at us. What would you say to your government?
HANNITY: I would say, get them.
NETANYAHU: You'd say...
HANNITY: I would say...
NETANYAHU: Protect us. You would say, protect us. You'd be right to ask that because the government's first obligation is -- you know, is to protect its people. OK, now here comes problem number two. What if they not only target your civilians so criminally and indiscriminately, what if they hide behind civilians? What if those terror rockets are being fired from schools, from hospitals, from motels and private homes? What would you do then?
What if the terror tunnels are dug into your nurseries, into your schools, into your kindergartens from homes, from private homes on their side? Would you give immunity to these rocketeers and terrorists and death squads because the point of origin of the attack is deliberately embedded in civilian areas?
Well, obviously, you wouldn't. I mean, you would say to the government, No, act against them. Try to minimize civilian casualties, but go against these terrorists because we need to protect ourselves.
This is what Israel has been doing. And I think when people are saying you shouldn't take action against them, they have to understand that what they're saying is that the terrorists will enjoy this immunity. You will give them essentially immunity, and they'll continue to do this.
I think when the Middle East is swept by this volatile mix -- it's now almost a brushfire of terrorist organizations who are using this tactic, targeting civilians while hiding behind civilians, and we are left absolutely defenseless, and you say, You cannot act? I think that will ensure that the brushfire spreads throughout the Middle East, throughout North Africa, and I say eventually, around the globe. It'll be a tremendous victory for terrorism.
HANNITY: Let me ask you this because Israel went to great pains -- we saw leaflets being dropped in areas warning civilians to get out.
HANNITY: As I understand and you -- explain the pains or the -- the methods that you would use to warn civilians. Text messages, I understand, phone calls were made?
NETANYAHU: All the text -- first of all, leaflets, text messages, phone calls, that you call to a building that is used as a terrorist headquarters, and you say to all the people there, Look, this is -- you're in a military target. Please leave, OK? And if they don't leave, you do a demonstration, strafing, that is non-explosive, OK? And then they leave. And when you see them leave, you attack it. That's basically the procedure from the air.
Now the -- and I don't know of any country that does that. I just don't know of any army that does that, or certainly no one does it more than that. I don't know of any army that does more than an Israeli army does to avoid civilian casualties.
HANNITY: You're a student of Churchill. I know you like Winston Churchill. And you've studied...
HANNITY: OK, during the bombing of Britain, not only did he walk amongst the people. But secondarily, how did he deal with Germany?
NETANYAHU: How did he do it?
HANNITY: He carpet bombed cities.
NETANYAHU: Well, I don't want to speak about Churchill...
HANNITY: In other words, has modern warfare changed?
NETANYAHU: Well, I think we don't use carpet bombing. And we don't use deliberate targeting of a single civilian. We're targeting military targets, and sometimes, civilians are accidentally killed.
You talk about World War II, I'll give you another example of World War II. In 1944, the Royal Air Force, the British air force, goes out to bomb the Gestapo headquarters in Copenhagen. Perfectly legitimate target, except the British pilots miss, and instead of hitting the Gestapo headquarters, they hit a children's hospital nearby, and I think some 87 children are horribly killed.
That's not a war crime. That's a legitimate act of war against a legitimate target that has incidental and unintended casualties. That accompanies every war. That's not what -- that's what Israel is facing and Israel is encountering, giving warnings, trying not to in any way harm civilians, but sometimes, civilians that are put in harm's way deliberately by the Hamas terrorists, they do get in harm's way. That's the whole purpose of Hamas.
In the case of the terrorists, they're committing a double war crime. Every rocket that they send here, 3,500 rockets -- they were deliberately intended to hit our civilians and only our civilians. Every terror tunnel that is dug is directed into our civilian areas. So they're deliberately targeting civilians while deliberately hiding behind civilians, using them as a human shield. That's a double war crime.
Now, who are many in the international community accusing of war crimes? Israel, that is behaving in the most legitimate way to defend itself, to avoid civilian casualties, to take the defensive action that any government would have to do, any democracy would have to do under lesser circumstances, and many have done that.
HANNITY: You have challenged...
NETANYAHU: And I think we shouldn't let the terrorists get away with this.
HANNITY: You've challenged the international community on this issue of war crimes because here they have fired 3,500 rockets into your country and built tunnels into your country, and yet they want to attack Israel in the United Nations. What's your reaction to that?
NETANYAHU: I think it endangers the whole structure of the laws of war and international law because if I have to -- if I have to reduce all of the laws of war into a single sentence, it is this. You divide the world into two, combatants and noncombatants. You can attack deliberately combatants, but not deliberately noncombatants. Those happen. I mean, those casualties accrue, but they're unintentional.
Israel acts that way. It attacks combatants and accidentally kills noncombatants. But in the case of the terrorists, it's the exact opposite. They deliberately attack combatants -- noncombatants, civilians, deliberately.
And it cannot be that this equation is turned over on its head because it means that the whole structure of international law, the ability of democracies that respect the laws of war, that respect human rights, that respect civilian lives, that try to minimize civilian lives (sic), they're the ones that are held accountable for the civilian deaths that are caused, tragically and horribly, by the people who don't care a whit!
Hamas, Islamic Jihad, they sacrifice their own people deliberately! The more civilian deaths, the better, from their point of view.
HANNITY: You wanted to, in your press conference yesterday -- you have video evidence of Hamas firing these weapons in these heavily...
HANNITY: ... populated areas from mosques and schools. And one of the press outlets -- and you were challenging the press, now that they're not under the intimidation of Hamas, to show their videos, but you were asked specifically not to show video that you have for fear...
NETANYAHU: Oh, we had -- oh, we had a correspondent -- I showed a few of these -- press footage of people who finally either got out of Gaza or had the courage to show the truth because just about every one of those 3,500 rockets that were fired at us were fired from densely populated areas and from schools with children around them.
So -- and we showed two such examples, one fired from a hospital and one fired from another civilian installation. There was a third footage that we didn't show because right before the press conference that I held to show how Hamas is firing from densely populated areas, we got a phone call from a correspondent in Gaza who said, Please don't show this in your press conference. My life would be at risk.
Is anyone going to intimidate you on anything that your show in Israel? Of course not. This is a free society, free speech. In Gaza, Hamas is intimidating the reporters. They cannot show how Hamas is firing from civilian areas, how it's embedded children into its rocket launching sites, how it uses U.N. installations and uses them as military targets not only to store rockets, but to fire rockets from.
It doesn't show also (ph) combatant deaths. It tries to hide the number of combatants who've died in order to kick up the so-called proportion. So all of that -- you know, it's hard for correspondents who fear for their lives to show it. I can understand that. But I do expect them, when they come out of Gaza, if they're very, very brave when they're in Gaza, to report this, to report the truth because among other things, we're not only fighting a battle here for justice and for moral clarity, we're fighting a battle for the truth, for the facts. The facts are that Hamas is responsible for these human deaths and uses its people as a human shield, and Hamas should be blamed for this and held accountable for this.
HANNITY: And coming up, more of my exclusive interview with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu right after the break. And I asked the prime minister if the United States should cut off its funding to the Palestinians if they are, in fact, funding terror. That and much more as "Hannity" continues from Tel Aviv. Please stay with us.
HANNITY: And welcome back to "Hannity." We are on the ground in Israel, and we continue now with part two of my exclusive interview with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
HANNITY: I spent two days on the Israeli/Gaza border, in Sderot, for example, miles (ph) in between an Israeli town, city, and I spent time with the mayor and time with the police. The two things that really stood out. Number one is the geography, how close the enemies of Israel are to you. It is -- it is...
NETANYAHU: How close? Tell (INAUDIBLE)
HANNITY: A mile.
NETANYAHU: A mile?
HANNITY: Less than a mile.
NETANYAHU: A mile is good.
HANNITY: And the other thing is the -- I was in one of the tunnels. I know you took out close to 40 of the tunnels. I don't know if there are more. The level of sophistication -- it was reinforced concrete.
HANNITY: It was engineered at a very sophisticated level. Those two things stood out in my trip here.
NETANYAHU: Right. Israel's -- the vulnerability of Israel, its need to defend itself, is not normally seen. Israel's a tiny country. You know, it's like...
HANNITY: It's about the size of New Jersey, everyone tells me.
NETANYAHU: It's about the size of -- I think it's a little smaller than New Jersey...
NETANYAHU: ... if I'm not wrong. But it's a tiny county. And imagine that New Jersey was hit by almost 4,000 rockets. What would you do? You'd have to act. The second thing is, you're right, they've taken all the international support and aid, all that cement that was...
HANNITY: Israeli cement.
NETANYAHU: Well, Israeli cement, and sometimes funded by foreigners, to build up a life aboveground, a city aboveground, and they built an underground terror city with these attack tunnels plunging into Israel for kidnap and murder and massacre. That's what they did. So you know, we have to make sure that that doesn't happen again.
But you should know that when we talk about the civilian casualties, Sean, every one of them, every one of them is a tragedy. Every child lost is a tragedy, a tragedy that could have been avoided, A, if Hamas didn't use them as human shields, but also if Hamas accepted the cease-fire, the Egyptian cease-fire, which we accepted...
HANNITY: Weeks ago.
NETANYAHU: ... weeks ago, the number of casualties -- about 90 percent of the casualties would have been avoided had they accepted the cease-fire that they, in fact, accepted two days ago.
HANNITY: In many ways, do you...
NETANYAHU: So it all could have been avoided.
HANNITY: Do you think...
NETANYAHU: We accepted it.
HANNITY: You did?
NETANYAHU: Hamas -- yes. We did (INAUDIBLE) the Egyptian cease-fire.
HANNITY: The question in my mind...
NETANYAHU: They refused. They rejected it, and six, seven cease-fires subsequently. We accepted. They rejected (INAUDIBLE)
HANNITY: The question in my mind, then, is they didn't accept it. They accepted it now, but they lost 40 of the tunnels, which I assume took years to build...
NETANYAHU: That's correct.
HANNITY: ... and millions of millions of dollars.
NETANYAHU: That's correct.
HANNITY: You have diminished their capacity to fire rockets. Do you think this is because, in that sense, Israel won this battle, this -- this...
NETANYAHU: I'm not sure the battle is over. I think we've degraded their capability significantly. I think we've taken out the tunnels that we know about. There may be some that we don't know about. And it took them years to build. And I think you have to take into account the possibility that they continue -- will continue to respond.
And we are organized...
HANNITY: Maybe soon.
NETANYAHU: It really depends on whether they want to continue this battle. You know, I think we have to find a peaceful solution, if we can. We have nothing against the people of Gaza. In fact, we want to help the people of Gaza, who are suffering under this terror tyranny, that basically -- you know, people come out -- you know, when you had lulls, Gazan people, Palestinians, come out in Gaza, and they began to protest. And they said to Hamas, What have you done to us? What have you done to us?
And you know what Hamas's response has been? They execute them on the spot! So this is a terror tyranny not only directed against us, our people, but directed against its own people. And the reason they're doing this is they think they can get away with it in the international press. That's really why they're doing it.
HANNITY: There's a moral issue for the United States -- and I'm not going to drag you into political battles within my country, but when Mohammed Morsi, former head of the Muslim Brotherhood, became the president Egypt, our country, the United States, gave him F-16s, tanks and $1.5 billion.
I know the United States, even though the Palestinian people voted in this coalition government with Hamas -- they get tens and tens and hundreds of millions of dollars from the United States. If that is the government that is elected by the people of these countries, morally speaking, is it right that we give them -- considering Israel is our closest ally here, to give them money or arms?
NETANYAHU: I think the support that is given to our neighbors should be -- is premised on the assumption that they keep the peace, that they do not violate the peace. And I think that premise should be maintained.
HANNITY: You do believe that...
NETANYAHU: I think it should be maintained.
HANNITY: Even -- even when it's violated, though?
NETANYAHU: Well, I think -- I think you should insist on it. You should insist that people, you know, do not receive -- the assistance that was given, for example, for Egypt was given under the assumption...
HANNITY: Mohamed Morsi was a man that once referred to the Israelis as descendants of apes and pigs.
NETANYAHU: Well, what you want to make sure is that the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt is maintained, and that's the premise of the American assistance to Egypt.
HANNITY: Right. I understand.
NETANYAHU: The premise of the American assistance to the Palestinian authority is that they move towards peace with Israel. And I think these are valid premises that should be kept.
HANNITY: And welcome back to "Hannity." We are on the ground in Israel. We are in Tel Aviv tonight. And we continue now with more of my exclusive interview with the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
HANNITY: Because of your geographical location, surrounded by many enemies -- and you're here in the Middle East, and we could run off the list -- Islamic Jihad, Hamas, Hezbollah, you have Muslim Brotherhood, you have ISIS, you have Al Qaeda, a lot of groups, radical Islam. You have to -- you have no choice. You have to understand radical Islam.
Do you think the world -- even in a post-9/11 world, I wonder at times if people know the extent of the threat of radical Islam.
NETANYAHU: I hope they do. I mean, the evidence is abundant. What you have right now is this terrific conflagration in the Middle East. You have ISIS taking swathes of Iraq and Syria. It's now pushing into -- right close to Lebanon and perhaps into Jordan. That's very, very dangerous. And ISIS basically a sister movement of Al Qaeda. You have Hezbollah, radical Shi'ites fighting radical Sunnis. You have Hamas and you have in Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and in North Africa...
HANNITY: Radicalism is on the rise.
NETANYAHU: ... a plethora of Islamist terrorist groups. Now, look, they're all fighting among themselves, but they all agree that once they destroy, vanquish their -- Muslim moderates who are there who don't share their views and they behead them and do horrible things to them -- and then they have to get to Israel, which is the Western country in the region...
HANNITY: You always hear, Wipe Israel off the map.
NETANYAHU: Always. But we're the small Satan. For all of them, you're the great Satan. The radical Shi'ites are backed by Iran. The radical Sunnis have various backers, and so on. And these people fight among themselves who'll be the king of the hill. But one thing they agree on, it's going to be an Islamist hill and it's going to be a world dominated by their unforgiving creed, their violent ideology, which rejects modernity, rejects human rights, rejects -- puts women as chattel. All minorities are subjugated or eliminated. I mean, it is -- it is a terrible, terrible world view, with these competing sects who want to enforce it on the rest of humanity, those of humanity who will be left alive. A good portion will be destroyed.
Now, this is the danger that you have, 21st century weapons with early medieval doctrines here, wedded together. And this is a great danger for the world. Israel is on the front line facing this terrible force and should be given support.
And who is the world supporting? Is it supporting Hamas, this terrorist tyranny of the worst kind that is cruel to -- not only to us but to its own people? Or is it supporting this vibrant, beleaguered democracy, Israel, that is trying to legitimately defend itself?
And I think everybody should ask themselves that question because by supporting Israel, you're supporting yourself.
HANNITY: See, I agree with your analysis. The marriage of radicalism and weapons of mass destruction has got to be viewed as the world's greatest threat.
You know, one thing we're witnessing, with the rise of radicalism -- you talk about the Middle East and North Africa and all the different groups, and then, of course, we have Iran on the side, which I want to ask you about. And then look at -- it somewhat surprised me in this conflict that there was not enough moral clarity on the part of some people, some nations.
We saw a rise of anti-Semitism in France, Germany, even Great Britain and the United States in small sectors because Hamas's charter is very clear. It says, Israel will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it. It goes on to say the Prophet, Allah, God bless him, grant him salvation, the day of judgment will not come until the Muslims fight the Jews, kill the Jews, when the Jew goes behind the stones and trees, the stones and trees will say, Oh, Muslims, oh, Abdullah, there is a Jew behind me. Come kill him.
And I can read much more. I'm sure you're very aware of their charter. So the question is, you see the rise of radicalism You see the rise of anti-Semitism. You read Hamas's charter. And throughout this conflict, you hear you have got to have a cease-fire. You cannot defend yourself.
NETANYAHU: Well, I think a lot of people say they support Israel's right to exist, and I think they do. They support Israel's right to defend itself. But they actually, in practice, refuse to let Israel exercise that right because -- I know that's not the U.S. position, and the U.S. has been very clear about that, including from President Obama down. (INAUDIBLE) we cannot (ph) -- no country can tolerate rockets into our cities. Nobody -- no country can tolerate these terror tunnels dug into our communities, and we have a right to act in self-defense, and we do. And I think that's important.
But there are others in the international community, who, unlike the United States or Canada or Australia, and some very courageous people in Europe, who stood up with Israel, and elsewhere in the world -- there are some who say, Well, you know, yes, you have a right of self-defense, but you know, if they fire at you from densely populated urban areas, you really don't have a right to defend yourself because some -- because some civilians will be killed.
In other words, borrowing on that example that I took of the British air force bombing the Gestapo headquarters in Copenhagen, no, you cannot bomb the Gestapo headquarters in Copenhagen or you cannot fight the German army because they're embedded in civilian areas, you know, you'd never have conquered Normandy and gone on to Berlin if you accepted that view. You don't give immunity to terrorists because they're hiding in civilian areas while rocketing your civilian areas.
HANNITY: And welcome back to "Hannity." We are on the ground in Israel. We are in Tel Aviv. And here is the last part of my exclusive interview with the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu.
HANNITY: I was in Sderot, as I mentioned, and 10,000 rockets, I was told, in 10 years. I went to --
NETANYAHU: And 10,000 rockets?
HANNITY: Yes, 10,000 rockets. And I actually saw many of them.
NETANYAHU: That's a small town.
HANNITY: On the border. I went to -- kids can't play outside. They built an indoor playground for the kids. What would have happened if you didn't have the Iron Dome? And do you not expect those that want the destruction of Israel, those like the mullahs in Iran, the supreme leader constantly saying they want to wipe Israel off the map, this is a challenge to stay ahead technologically?
NETANYAHU: All the time. All the time. You're absolutely right on that. But I think it's not merely a technological battle. It's the moral battle. It's the battle of moral clarity. We have to recognize who these people are. You know, Hamas in Gaza danced and cheered when 9/11 took place. They viewed bin Laden as a hero. In Israel, everybody grieved, wept with the United States.
This is a not a symmetrical war. People say it's an asymmetrical warfare, you know, in the sense that they're firing on civilians while hiding amount civilians, and we don't do that. But these are asymmetrical adversaries. We believe in human rights. We believe in protecting civilians. We try to do that. They believe in the exact opposite. They want as many civilian deaths on their own side, not only on our side. And I think that's the asymmetry and that's the challenge for all of us.
HANNITY: Let me ask you one last question. What then do you make, based on what you just said, of this rise of anti-Semitism? What do you make of that? Where is that coming from considering there is no moral equivalency here? This seems to be a up is down, down is up, black is white, white is black mentality.
NETANYAHU: I think in some parts of the world, especially in Western Europe, there's an amalgamation of Islamist anti-Semitism and radical, political parties that are nominating. And they say, skip moralities, skip clarity. Let's just do away with Israel. But for the Islamic radical groups, remember, we're the small Satan. You're the great Satan. You're ultimately the target. They attack us because they believe that we are you, and that you are us. And in one sense of the word, we are you and you are us. We are that enlightened, civilized, believer of democracy, not without fault, trying as best as we can to stop the hemorrhaging, protecting ourselves against these vile enemies. And I think most Americans understand exactly what I'm saying.
HANNITY: The polls show that.
NETANYAHU: I think it's beyond the polls. I think there's a sensibility there. I'm not sure it pervades in other parts, in all parts of the world. I wish it would, because I think the future of our free civilization depends on our ability to have not only the weapons but the moral clarity to fight this evil when we see it, and now we see it.
HANNITY: My last, one last, last question. I worry whether or not radical Islam is so much bigger than people even imagine, beyond these groups. We also talk about, we compare radical Islam versus moderate Islam. The moderates are awfully quiet, I would argue, in part, out of fear, or is it out of agreement? Are the numbers of radical Islamists much larger, those that buy into this evil ideology? Is it a much bigger part of the population than one could even imagine?
NETANYAHU: Given that there are about a billion Muslims in the world, even a small percentage of radicalism is a very big number. And they certainly terrorize others. There's no question that they do terrorize many, many in the Muslim world who don't want to be part of that.
But I think the greatest danger we face is that these Islamist terrorist groups or nations have the weapons of mass death. Look at the danger that we face when they have rockets and missiles. Now imagine what kind of danger we'd have if they can put a nuclear warhead on top of these missiles? That's the danger that is coming from Iran. If I this great melee, this great conflagration, this great battle, one of these militants, in this case the Shiite militants, backed by Iran, sponsored by Iran, if they have a nuclear umbrella, if Iran itself can intimidate the U.S. with intercontinental ballistic missiles carrying nuclear weapons, then we bring history to a different threshold all together.
Over the years people have said, you're just saying that. Think about it. This is a danger that I've been pointing to. It's not a spin. It's not a whim. It is a clinical diagnosis of a pathological movement that is sweeping our area but will soon come to a theater near you. It has to be stopped now. The ones who are standing right now in front of this tsunami is Israel. Support Israel. Support yourself.
HANNITY: Mr. Prime minister, thank you for your time. Appreciate it. God speed, too.
NETANYAHU: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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