Netanyahu criticised for controversial Dr Phil interview

During the interview with Dr Phil, Netanyahu said that Israel would continue its operations in Gaza’s southern city of Rafah [Getty]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has come under fire for conducting an interview with Dr Phil while seemingly ducking interviews to the Israeli press.

In the interview, Netanyahu also admitted his government failed to defend Israel on 7 October, but stopped short of assuming personal responsibility.

Netanyahu, whose interview with Dr Phil was released on Friday, hasn’t conducted an interview with Israeli press since April 2023.

The Prime Minister has faced criticism for his government’s handling of the Hamas-led attack on Israel, which killed 1,200 people, as well as for controversial judicial reforms that were underway prior to the war.

Journalist Noga Tarnopolsky said “after years of avoiding interviews by Israeli journalists, PM Netanyahu submitted to the soothing massage of a Dr Phil infomercial.”

Gregg Carlstrom, Middle East correspondent for The Economist, said it was “embarrassing for a wartime prime minister to sit down for an hour with… Dr Phil”.

Other public figures and commentators also weighed in on the almost hour long interview. 

Nader Hashemi, Director of the Alwaleed Centre for Muslim Christian Understanding, accused Dr Phil of justifying “the mass killing of Palestinians in Gaza”.

His comments referenced Dr. Phil’s description of Palestinians in Gaza as “occupying” the enclave and suggested that many willingly harbour Hamas or sympathise with the group. He also asked Netanyahu if “Palestinians at large” are complicit alongside Hamas in the war.

During the interview, Netanyahu said Palestinians were complicit alongside Hamas, claiming that civilians’ tablets were found to have pictures of German Dictator Adolf Hitler on them, and that copies of Mein Kampf were found in residential apartments.

“They’re [Hamas] merciless, they educate their children to this unfathomable hatred of Jews to this murderous mentality. Many comply with it, and those who don’t are used as human shields anyway,” Netanyahu said. 

Responsibility for 7 October attack

Netanyahu deflected accountability for the Israeli government’s failures before and during 7 October, saying “we can get into this discussion and we will, but right now we have to win.”

“There were failures, obviously… The government’s first responsibility is to protect the people. That’s the ultimate enveloping responsibility. And people weren’t protected. We have to admit that,” he said.

“I hold myself and everyone on this. I think we have to examine how it happened. What was the intelligence failure? What was the military failure? We can delve into it but important thing right now is to make sure that we don’t have another failure.”

He further stressed that Israel would continue its operations in Gaza’s southern city of Rafah, which currently houses around 1.4 million Palestinians, most of whom were forcibly displaced from other areas of the Gaza Strip.

On Friday UN General Secretary Antonio Guterres warned an Israeli invasion of Rafah would lead to an “epic humanitarian disaster and pull the plug on our efforts to support people as famine looms.”

The ongoing Israeli operation has drawn warnings from US President Joe Biden, who said that the US would refuse to send arms to Israel.

Netanyahu said that, while he hoped to overcome his ongoing disagreements with Biden about the operation, we “will do what we have to do to protect our country.”

Israel’s war on Gaza has killed at least 34,904 Palestinians and wounded a further 78,514, leaving much of the enclave destroyed and causing a humanitarian crisis.

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