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Netanyahu in a rare apology says he was wrong in criticising security apparatus

Jerusalem: Faced with sharp criticism from allies and opposition alike, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday apologized for an earlier statement in which he blamed the security services for failing to prevent the deadly Hamas attack on October 7.

“I was wrong. The things I said following the press conference should not have been said and I apologize for that,” Netanyahu said in a post on X, shortly after deleting his original statement on the same social media platform.

“I give full backing to all the heads of the security services. I am sending strength to the [IDF] chief of staff and the commanders and soldiers of the IDF who are on the frontlines and fighting for our home,” the Israeli prime minister further said.

Late Saturday night, Netanyahu in a post on X said that he never received any warnings of Hamas’ “war intentions” at any stage, and stressed that “all the security services, including the head of military intelligence and the head of the Shin Bet, were of the opinion that Hamas was deterred and wanted to come to a settlement”.

His comments evoked sharp criticism following which it was deleted.

At a press conference on Saturday evening, reporters repeatedly asked the Israeli prime minister if he accepted responsibility for the failure, a question he evaded saying that there would be a thorough enquiry about it after the War and everyone would have to give answers, ‘including me’.

Several security chiefs have accepted responsibility for the massive failure, but Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister who has been at the helm of affairs since 2009 except for a brief 13-month gap, has desisted from taking any blame for it.

The spokesman for the Israeli army, Daniel Hagari, tried to brush aside the controversy, saying ‘I will not answer that question. We are now in a war and are focused on it”.

“We in the IDF and Shin Bet will conduct a thorough investigation of the truth and present everything to the public,” Hagari was quoted as saying in the local media.

“Now we are fighting and focused on the war,” he emphasised.

Netanyahu’s ally National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir criticised the Prime Minister for the post but said that this was not the proper time ‘for an accounting’.

“The problem isn’t specific warnings, but rather the entire mistaken concept. The policy of containment, the imaginary deterrence, and buying temporary quiet for an exorbitant price” are the root of the entire problem, Ben Gvir said in a post on X, referring to Netanyahu’s post.

Ben Gvir, the leader of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, however, said that such a discussion “is not for now,” but that there will be “a lot of time afterwards for an accounting”.

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid said that the prime minister has “crossed a red line” by blaming the security and defence services.

“While IDF soldiers and commanders are fighting valiantly against Hamas and Hezbollah, he is trying to blame them instead of backing them up,” Lapid wrote on X.

“Such attempts to evade responsibility and place the blame on the security establishment weakens the IDF while it is fighting Israel’s enemies,” he said, demanding, “Netanyahu must apologize for his words”.

National Unity chairman and former Defence Minister Benny Gantz, who joined Netanyahu’s government to boost war preparation efforts, called on the Prime Minister to retract his comments.

“This morning in particular I want to back and support all the security forces and IDF soldiers, including the IDF chief of staff, the head of military intelligence, the head of the Shin Bet,” Gantz said.

“When we are at war, leadership needs to be responsible, to decide to do the right things and support the [security] forces in a way in which they can carry out what we demand of them. Any other action or comment harms the resilience of the people and its forces,’ he asserted.

“The Prime Minister must retract his comments from yesterday and stop dealing with this issue,” Gantz stressed.

Meanwhile, the IDF intensified attacks on Hamas bases in Gaza, saying that it struck some 450 targets belonging to the organisation over the past day.

The targets included Hamas command centres, observation posts, and anti-tank guided missile launch positions, the IDF said.

The Israeli army also expanded ground operations in the Gaza Strip overnight, reinforcing with additional troops.

More than 1400 Israelis were killed and around 230 were taken hostage when Hamas carried out a dastardly attack infiltrating several communities in the south of Israel.

The health ministry in Gaza run by Hamas has claimed that more than 8,000 people have been killed in the coastal Strip since Israel launched a retaliatory campaign to eliminate the militant group.

(Published 29 October 2023, 13:22 IST)

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