That was the message Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (pictured above) delivered Sunday on Fox News. He vowed his country will continue to push hard for both objectives in spite of recent comments from U.S. President Joe Biden, Netanyahu told show host Shannon Bream.
According to the prime minister, three-quarters of Hamas' military capability has been destroyed. The group's complete removal is important not only for Israel – which suffered more than 1,200 deaths at the hands of Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7 – but may be the last real chance for peace in the Middle East, he argued.
Netanyahu's resolve remains strong in spite of its powerful ally, not because of it. Biden last week told media that Israel's military response to the slaughter of its civilians has been "over the top." Netanyahu admitted while he speaks with Biden regularly, he hadn't spoken to him since those remarks.
"… I don't know what he meant by that, but I can tell you where we are," he responded. "We were attacked in the worst attack on Jewish people since the Holocaust. That Oct. 7 massacre was equivalent to 20 9-11s in one day, and the equivalent of 50,000 Americans slaughtered, burned, maimed, raped, beheaded and 10,000 Americans taken hostage, including mothers and children.
"So, what would America's response be?" Netanyahu wondered aloud. "I would say it would be at least as strong as Israel's – and many Americans tell me, 'We would have flattened them. We would have turned them into dust.'"
Israeli journalist Caroline Glick told Washington Watch last week that U.S. opposition to "voluntary migration" of Palestinians who wish to leave Gaza is a major obstacle to Israel's ability to protect Palestinians.
"There are at least ten countries that have already expressed willingness to accept the Palestinians who want to leave Gaza, and the United States is saying absolutely not under any circumstances – and then blaming Israel for the plight of these people," Glick told show host Tony Perkins.
Glick said many Palestinians have resorted to paying bribes to Egyptian soldiers to cross the border into that country.
The Israeli leader claimed his country's approach since Oct. 7 has been to minimize civilian injury and death.
"We're proceeding as no other army has on earth and taking precautions to prevent civilian casualties," he explained. "We're putting flyers in there, we're calling the cell phones of Palestinian civilians, telling them to get out of harm's way. Hamas is trying to keep them in harm's way at gunpoint and often at gunfire. We are creating safe corridors. We're allowing humanitarian help to get to safe zones, so we're going out of our way to prevent civilian casualties," Netanyahu said.
Hamas claimed 253 hostages on Oct. 7, the vast majority of them Israeli citizens, and released 105 during a temporary ceasefire in November. Two more hostages were freed Monday when Israeli forces raided an apartment in Rafah, a city on the southern end of the Gaza Strip where 1.4 million Palestinians have fled to escape fighting.
Recovering hostages, destroying Hamas not 'mutually exclusive' goals
Netanyahu said Israel Defense Forces will continue to eliminate Hamas and recover hostages at the same time.
"They are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they're mutually compatible. The only thing that will get the hostages released is the thing that will defeat Hamas, which is a sustained military effort. It already got half the hostages released, it will get the other half too; but I want to say one thing that [many] people don't realize: Victory is within reach. We've already destroyed three-quarters of the Hamas organized terror battalions. Three-quarters, 18 out of 24. We're not going to leave the other six," he said.
Netanyahu said destruction of Hamas should be a "common target" for both Israel and the U.S.
"Victory is within reach, and we should all strive for that common target: to destroy Hamas, because that gets all the other objectives within our purview. It also gets us something else. It gets hope for the Middle East, hope for peace. You can't have that with Hamas remaining intact," he said.
Glick doesn't believe the U.S. is embracing complete annihilation of Hamas. Instead, she sees the Biden administration working to "appease Iran at Israel's expense."
Her column last week for the Jewish News Syndicate said: "Over the past several days, the U.S. media has reported claims by U.S. intelligence officials asserting that Iran is not responsible for the war being waged by its proxies Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthis and the Iranian-controlled Shiite militias in Iraq and Syria. U.S. intelligence officials insist these terror armies are attacking the United States and Israel because Israel is fighting Hamas in Gaza. If Israel were to stop fighting, all the troubles would end."
Critics says the Isarel response against Hamas, the governing authority in Gaza before the war, is planting seeds of hatred in Palestinians that will be a problem for Israel another day.
"I don't know how you can get these people to come over to your side if you don't defeat Hamas. Hamas will continue, as pledged, to carry out these massacres over and over and over again," Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu: 'We have to finish the job'
The prime minister used America's own history to illustrate the need for Israel to continue the push against Hamas.
"It's like saying once you've completed three-quarters of the job of defeating Nazi Germany, 'Well, let's leave the last quarter because we have to go into Berlin, and we have to go into Stuttgart or Munich or whatever. If we leave them, it will be fine. If we go and finish the job the German people will never forgive you.'
"Ask yourself the other question," Netanyahu continued. "What if we leave Hamas in place? There's no hope for a better Middle East. There's no hope that we will set back the Iran terror axis. In fact, they'll have an incredible victory. We have to finish the job."
Netanyahu said outsiders don't understand "how united the people are" in the need to eliminate Hamas. "Across the political spectrum, people understand that we have no choice but to win this war," he said. "Our very future and in many ways the future of peace and prosperity in the Middle East depend on this.
"If we defeat Hamas, the circle of peace will expand dramatically," he added. "We have a terrible future if we don't defeat Hamas; we have a brilliant future if we do."