Netanyahu Spokesman Schools Ronan Farrow on Israel-Hamas Situation

Ronan Farrow, who used to report to Hillary Clinton at the State Department, was taken to school on the Tuesday edition of his eponymous program by Mark Regev, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Farrow seemed to want Regev to apologize on air for Israel’s “level of retaliation.” Regev argued that Israel is not retaliating but rather is being forced to protect its citizens from a terrorist group that has rejected a cease-fire.

Ronan Farrow seemed more concerned with the safety of Palestinian civilians in Gaza and showed no sympathy for the citizens of Israel. Ronan even accused Israel of purposely targeting a disabled persons' home. Regev made it clear to Farrow that Israel’s military cannot control Hamas using its citizens as human shields. He explained that Palestinian citizens “are not our enemy” and “every noncombatant that's hurt, that's a tragedy.”

When the MSNBC host asked him about Israel striking “the head of police’s house.” Regev educated the boy genius on the difference between “police” in Gaza under the terrorist group Hamas and the police force as Americans are used to them. Regev told Farrow that they were not just striking some random police headquarters, but rather were targeting the man who is in “charge of internal security in Hamas.”

Continuing to show little concern for Israel’s situation, Farrow wondered if Israel will be aiding the “humanitarian” crisis that this situation is presenting. Regevr reminded Farrow that Hamas had the chance to agree to a cease-fire, but did not take it. However, Israel is “still allowing humanitarian aid to go to Gaza.” Regev made it clear to Farrow that the people of Gaza are “furious” with Hamas for not agreeing to the cease-fire.

The relevant portion is transcribed below:

MSNBC
Ronan Farrow Daily
July 15, 2014
1:09 p.m. Eastern

RONAN FARROW: Mark, we're talking about one Israeli potentially dead now. I believe your government is confirming that at this point. But at this point we're also looking at nearly 200 Palestinian civilians confirmed dead, almost 1,400 injured. Many of them women and children. Is there any point at which the level of retaliation from Israel becomes too much? Is there a stopping point?

MARK REGEV: I reject the use of the word retaliation. We're not striking at terrorist targets in Gaza because we want revenge over retaliation. We are trying to hit the terrorist infrastructure, the people who are shooting rockets at us. We're trying to stop their attacks on our people. Our strategy is ultimately defensive. To bring about a sustained period of peace and quiet for the people of Israel and to end that rocket fire. That's why we accepted the Egyptian cease-fire proposals. Let's be clear here. Last night at about 10:00 local time here the Egyptians went public with their proposals. Both sides were given ample time until 9:00 A.M. Local time this morning to prepare for the cease-fire. Israel, we called a special meeting of the security cabinet which decided to agree to the Egyptian proposals. The Arab league not known for being particularly friendly to Israel but the Arab league endorsed the Egyptian initiative and we ceased all military operations against terrorist targets in Gaza as of 9:00 A.M. And held that cease-fire for more than six hours. And during that period, Hamas both verbally said, no, we don't want the cease-fire and indeed they fired more than 50 rockets into Israel trying to kill our people. Hamas killed the cease-fire. Hamas threw it away. Hamas said no to chance to end it.

RONAN FARROW: Mark, certainly nobody doubts Israel's need to defend itself in this, but we have talked about this question of proportionately before. What about the questions of targeting a disabled person's home. Was that proportional?

MARK REGEV: First of all, I'm not going to apologize for the very low number of casualties on our side. I'm very happy that so far despite more than a thousand Hamas rockets of Gaza we have had so many casualties because we have invested billions in homeland defense and shelters and early warning in sirens and of course in Iron Dome which you have reported about extensively on MSNBC. Our ability to shoot down incoming rockets before they hit their targets in Israel and that's an American-Israeli joint venture and I thank the American people for the support of that. When we're striking terrorist targets in Gaza, we're trying to be as surgically as possible in a complex combat situation because Hamas -- making a maximum effort to save lives, Hamas uses the people of Gaza as a human shields. They embed their terrorist machine inside schools, sports stadiums, urban areas, mosques and so we have a very serious tactical challenge. How do you stop them shooting the rockets and same time not hurt innocent people and we are committed to try to avoid what the experts call collateral people. They're not our enemy.

FARROW: Mark, attacking that clinic, the mosque that was recently struck, the head of police's house that killed I believe 18 people and injured 50, that's all just an unavoidable consequence of trying to target terrorists targets?

REGEV: Let's be clear. Using the example of the head of police, not like he is from the New York police department. This is the head of internal security of Hamas. He's the man that enforces Hamas' iron fist over the people of Gaza where they have got this, you know, Islamist government and stamp out all freedom. He is not a police officer in the American sense of the word at all. It's more like a police officer that we knew from the old days of the iron curtain. And his -- his facility where he was living is a command and control center for the Hamas military machine and as such is a legitimate target. We didn't want to see in that strike noncombatants hurt and we made an effort. We warned in advance with early warning. We even -- we have a system with a knock on the roof with a firecracker or a large explosive just to make a noise so people know, innocent civilians should vacate that premises and we are not happy that in that attack there were noncombatants hurt. For us, every noncombatant that's hurt that's a tragedy.

FARROW: I think everybody sees that it is a tactically complex situation and complex across the board, indeed. But when we talk about the numbers, Mark, is Israel going to address the humanitarian fallout from the situation? 600,000 at risk of losing access to water, the tens of thousands displaced at this point?

REGEV: Well, the fact that we supported the cease-fire shows we wanted this to end and people have to ask Hamas how's it that you threw away the chance of a cease-fire? But we have also kept crossings open. We're allowing humanitarian aid into Gaza to continue. We don't see as I said a moment ago the people of Gaza as an enemy. There was a strained situation as one of the crossing points between Israel and Gaza was closed down by Hamas and prevented trucks with aid from coming in and prevented those that needed treatment in Israel. People in Gaza come for medical treatment in Israelis hospitals every day. They prevented them from leaving so I think if one's going to raise the humanitarian issue, we are doing a maximum effort to make sure that aid is delivered to the people of Gaza. We understand it's difficult for them. Ultimately, they are furious today. Our intelligence says very clearly and I believe reporters, your own reporter in Gaza reported this, too. The people of Gaza are furious at Hamas for throwing away a chance for a cease-fire.

Jackie Seal
Jackie Seal is a 2014 summer intern with the MRC's News Analysis Division.