“The only genocide is Hamas’ explicit goal of annihilating the Jewish state, destroying and killing all the Jews,” said Naftali Bennett when challenged by ITV News.
“Israel is bending over backwards, way more than what international law says because we want to prevent any unnecessary deaths of civilians.”
Fresh strikes on Gaza’s biggest refugee camp saw the camp’s death toll rise to close to 200 on Wednesday, according to officials from the Hamas-run health ministry.
Palestinians search for survivors following Israeli airstrikes at the Jabalia refugee camp.
Writing on X, formerly known as Twitter, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights later wrote: “We have serious concerns that these are disproportionate attacks that could amount to war crimes.”
But Bennett, who described himself as “a spokesperson for the people of Israel”, defended the attacks, which hit densely populated areas.
He rejected claims that the strikes, which the IDF says were aimed at terrorist leaders, breached the Geneva Convention, which protects civilians in areas of armed conflict.
“The full justification indefinitely is to continue until we eradicate Hamas,” he said.
Discussing attacks in civilian areas, Bennett added: “I wish that Gazan citizens were all wonderful and that Hamas was hijacking them.
“The truth of the matter, unfortunately, is that they have tremendous support among the Gazan citizens. Now, that is not to say that we will attack those citizens. We won’t, but I have to say… you’re confusing the aggressor and the victim.”
“To send 2,000 Israelis into a rampage in Gaza and rape girls, sever babies’ heads off, cut the breasts of a mother in front of a young child and cut his arm off, and then poke the father’s eye out when they see each other and let them die?
“Is that a proportionate response?
“You know, this famous chant now, ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine free’ – you might as well just say, ‘Let’s kill and expel nine million Israelis from the state of Israel, because Israel is precisely from the river to the sea.’
“I think something is very wrong in some so-called progressive western values if people can, in any stretch of mind, justify what Hamas did.
“They took babies and they butchered them with knives. They burnt them alive. We have evidence, I’ve seen the evidence.”
Bennett said he knew from his time as prime minister that Israeli military action in Gaza is assessed before being carried out to make sure they do not breach international law.
He said he did not want to criticise the serving prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu’s response to the October 7 attacks.
But Joe Biden and some of his senior aides are known to have privately discussed the possibility that Netanyahu’s political days are numbered, meaning he is unlikely to be in power for the duration of the conflict in Gaza.
It is reported that Naftali Bennett is one of several figures in the Israeli political establishment who American officials are in touch with. Bennett confirmed to ITV News that he is due to visit the United States in the coming days, but gave no further details.
Asked whether he believed Israel needed to cooperate with Egypt and other countries in the region to plan for what should happen in Gaza after the war, he said: “Right now, there’s a bunch of options… Among them, what you mentioned – that’s secondary.
“First, we have to eradicate this Nazi-type regime and then deal with who will be the Adenauer of this regime.”