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Thursday, December 6, 2018
PM Netanyahu's Remarks to Foreign Ambassadors in the North, Near where IDF Units are Working to Expose and Neutralize the Tunnels

The Hamas tunnels are broad. They enable several people to come at one and
also to put motorcycles, I’m pretty sure tractors and so on. In order to
bring in many forces, simultaneously, which means several battalions into
our territory, with the purpose of cutting off communities here, towns,
kibbutzim, and then going into a campaign of murder and kidnapping, which
could happen simultaneously.
PM Netanyahu's Remarks to Foreign Ambassadors in the North, Near where IDF
Units are Working to Expose and Neutralize the Tunnels
(Communicated by the Prime Minister's Media Adviser)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this morning (Thursday, 6 December 2018),
met with foreign ambassadors in the north, close to the IDF units that are
working to expose and neutralize the tunnels (click here). Following are his
remarks to the ambassadors:

"Today you can appreciate the effectiveness, the murderous effectiveness of
this instrument of terror tunnels, which I want to zoom into in a minute.
What we’re facing is one big enemy. That enemy is called Iran. Iran is
trying to act on two evels. One, to develop a nuclear arsenal. We’re dealing
with that with other means, including exposing Iran, as we did their secret
nuclear archives and their secret nuclear warehouse inside Iran, Tehran, and
other means.
The second thing that Iran is doing is developing conventional weapons
against us and have declared war to annihilate Israel. They say so openly,
every day. As part of that conventional effort they have two basic things
that they do. One is they try to entrench themselves in Syria. We’ve been
effectively fighting that, and I have to say that as a result of our efforts
there’s been a reduction of dozens of percents, dozens, that means at least
24% in the Iranian forces in Syria, and as a result of American sanctions
there’s also been a similar reduction in the budgets that go there.

We’ve been acting against them in Syria, as you know. Against them, against
the Iranian-backed militias, and no less important against their attempts to
bring sophisticated weapons and systems for precision guidance into Lebanon,
either precision guided missiles or the systems to convert statistical
missiles into precision guided missiles. We’re acting against it. So that’s
the first thing.

Hezbollah breaks down into two main arms. One, missiles, two, tunnels. On
the missiles, the statistical missiles we have our means of dealing but what
they’re trying to do is develop precision guided weapons and we’re acting
against that in the various efforts that we’ve blocked the transfer of these
systems, not hermetically. Nasrallah planned to have by now thousands of
precision guided missiles, in fact he has a few dozen, and that’s a result
of the action that we do including the revelations that I revealed at the UN
about their sites for conversion. Converting statistical missiles into
precision guided missiles and basically knock them out. They’re knocked out.

The other effort that they’ve been doing secretly is building terror tunnels
into our territory. These terror tunnels are different from the ones of
Hamas. They’re similar but different. As you know, Hamas has been trying to
do that. We have knocked out close to twenty and we’re going to
systematically eliminate that weapon there. I believe they have afforded you
the opportunity, I think that many of you have already used it to visit one
such tunnel, and I’m very glad to see that today the UN General Assembly is
going to, I hope, for the first time, condemn Hamas for doing this.

Hezbollah is also doing this, but with a twist. What Hezbollah wants to do
is to have broader tunnels. If you look at the Hamas tunnels, they’re very
narrow, basically for one person. The Hamas tunnels are broad. They enable
several people to come at one and also to put motorcycles, I’m pretty sure
tractors and so on. In order to bring in many forces, simultaneously, which
means several battalions into our territory, with the purpose of cutting off
communities here, towns, kibbutzim, and then going into a campaign of murder
and kidnapping, which could happen simultaneously.

This is obviously a very powerful instrument in their war plan against
Israel which they openly say, we want to destroy. We have found this now for
several years and developed the technological and engineering capability to
locate these tunnels and to neutralize them. We decided to act now, before
this capacity, our capacity to identify and neutralize them matured, and it
matured before their capacity, that would mature and they would have the
option to do what I just described.

I want to spend time on the diplomatic and international repercussions of
this. We asked for an urgent convening of the Security Council. The
Secretary General told me that it would happen either at the end of this
week or some time at the beginning of next week. We think that Hezbollah
should be condemned forcefully and universally on this act of aggression.
And again, this is a regime… This is an organization that openly says that
their goal is to annihilate the State of Israel. They don’t hide it any more
than he Iranians do, because of course they’re part and parcel of the same
effort and the same ideology.

We think that there should be heightened sanctions on Hezbollah. We
discussed this with the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and I think there
will be efforts that will be presented to the international community. We
think that Hezbollah should be designated in its entirety as a terror
organization, which is what it is, and not make artificial splits between
its supposed parts. Lebanon should be put on the list because they’re saying
nothing about this. They’re allowing their territory to be used in an act of
aggression against a neighboring state, and they allow their citizens to be
used as pawns.

Essentially Hezbollah is putting Lebanon at risk, but Lebanon is saying
nothing. They’re not even protesting. And they should, and they should be
told that they would pay the consequences, that they’ll be held accountable
for not even whispering a protest. They should be acting in every way
possible to stop this. They’re not.

These are the elements of the actions that we think should be taken with a
view in mind that behind all this is of course Iran. There’s no question
about it. And Iran has essentially overtaken Lebanon through Hezbollah. It’s
trying to do the same in Syria. We are resisting it but I think the
international community should resist it and condemn these clear acts of
aggression.

Please convey to your governments what you see here and I think the obvious
need to condemn unequivocally this aggression by Hezbollah and Iran and
Lebanon that has to be accountable "

Prime Minister Netanyahu answered the ambassadors' questions.

Regarding the role of UNIFIL, the Prime Minister said:

"UNIFIL should expand its role, because evidently it’s not been done. UNIFIL
is supposed to monitor, at the very least monitor if not stop, the transfer
of weapons into Lebanon, into south Lebanon. And you know there were 15,000
rockets and missiles at the end of the Second Lebanon War. There’s about ten
times that and we haven’t seen a single case, a single filing of a complaint
or report by UNIFIL.

The commander of UNIFIL has said that there was no recorded violation. Look
at this tunnel. That’s a clear act of recorded violation. We think UNIFIL
should discharge its responsibility and actually do it with a much tougher
approach and with a bigger force."

Regarding whether an escalation should be expected following the demolition
of the tunnel, the Prime Minister said:

"We’re going to destroy more. My goal was first of all to dismantle these
terror tunnels without getting into broad escalation. We passed a clear
message of what we’re doing and so far I can’t tell you that the risk of
escalation doesn’t exist but I don’t think it’s quite as… If you pass the
first 24 or 48 hours, and we are there, without an escalation, I think the
risk is much lower. It exists, we’re ready, we’re deployed, we’re all ready
to go if we have to, but I’m not sure that Hezbollah will make the terrible
mistake of testing our resolve and our preparedness."

Regarding the stability of the situation in the south, the Prime Minister
said:

"It’s certainly more stable than it was before, because my goal there was to
first get quiet and then see if we can have a longer term arrangement. The
quiet was achieved, has been achieved but who knows how sustainable it would
be. To achieve this quiet, we had to forcefully stop attempts by Hamas to
invade our territory and attack our soldiers and our civilians. We did that.
And also to take measures against their rocketing and so on of our towns and
villages, communities next to Gaza. To do this we also had to account not
only for the security but also how to prevent the humanitarian crisis that
was exacerbated by Abu Mazen’s decisions to withhold the funds. That created
a big hole there. The big hole was first created by Hamas that was taking an
enormous part of its budget for the terror tunnels, but what was left was
taken by Abu Mazen, so that created a second hole, very deep hole, and
somebody had to fill this hole. And in order to fill it from the
humanitarian point of view, the sewage is flowing into Ashkelon and so on
because no one is treating it, and other things that could break out.

So how to stop that? Somebody had to bring in the funds and given that other
countries, that Hamas, that Abu Mazen wasn’t going to do it and that other
countries weren’t going to do it, Qatar agreed to do it, at least
momentarily, so we said fine, and we have put some controls that we didn’t
have under Abu Mazen on the funds. We give the list, of the people. They
actually give to Qatar, and Qatar gives, passes on to us finger prints,
pictures, signatures, so that the money doesn’t just go in to anyone. And
that’s where it is right now. Can we move from there to a long term
arrangement? I don’t know.

What a long term arrangement would deal with is not just a cease fire and
passages and fishing but also having first the return of our soldiers, the
bodies of our soldiers, and our civilians, the development of basic
facilities, basic infrastructure in Gaza and a possible sea lane monitored
by us from Cyprus to Gaza. I don’t know if we’ll get to that. We’ll see if
the first part holds. Then we’ll see if we can get to the second part."

Regarding relations with the residents of Metula and their concerns about
the tunnels, the Prime Minister said:

"We were hearing from communities all alongside the Lebanese border, they’re
building tunnels, we don’t know, they’re coming under our homes. Now we’re
telling them we do know. They must sigh a great sigh of relief because they
see that we’re handling this matter just as we dismantled it in Gaza. And so
we’ve moved. I think there’s one other point. You’re going to hear from
Hezbollah today that Israel is the aggressive power and so on, and Israel is
flying over Lebanon. So the answer is, first of all, we’re not the
aggressive power, we didn’t say that we want to destroy Lebanon and this is
not, our life’s goal is not to eradicate the people of Lebanon off the face
of the earth. But that’s the goal of Hezbollah vis-à-vis the Jewish State of
Israel. They say the whole thing. Second point is that we have a perfect
right of preemptive self-defense to survey and collect intelligence against
those who openly declare their goal to destroy us, and we do so. But what
they’re doing is actually invading our ground, our territory. That’s what
they’re doing and you can’t make a false symmetry between these two things."

The following ambassadors were in attendance: Emanele Giaufret – European
Union, Anatoly Vikrorov – Russia, David Quarrey – Great Britain, Helene Le
Gal – France, Deborah A. Lyons – Canada, Martin Weiss – Austria, Christopher
Keith Cannan – Australia, Gianluigi Benedetti – Italy, Tsegay Berhe Hadera –
Ethiopia, Paulo Vasconcellos – Brazil, Benko Levente Csongor – Hungary,
Vhanga Patrice Koffi – Ivory Coast, Pablo Macedo – Mexico, Peter Hulenyi –
Slovakia and Marek Grzegorz Magierowski – Poland.

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