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Netanyahu apologizes for overnight tweet blaming security services for Oct. 7 debacle

Prime minister was asked if he received warnings before Hamas attack

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a press conference at the Ministry of Defense, in Tel Aviv, Oct. 28, 2023. (Photo: Dana Kopel/POOL)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in an unusual move deleted a statement and apologized on Sunday, after he was met with heavy criticism for a tweet suggesting that the security system, and not him, bore the blame for lack of preparedness against the Hamas terror attack on Oct. 7 that started the current war.

The tweet that provoked the harsh reactions was published after yesterday’s press conference, following a question to Netanyahu about intelligence briefings he received in the months before the attack, indicating a rising probability of war with Hamas. In the briefing, Netanyahu replied that this was not true.

About an hour after the briefing, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) first sent a statement to the reporter who had asked the question and then published the response on X, formerly Twitter, late at night, which read:

“At no point was a warning given to Prime Minister Netanyahu on Hamas’s intention to start a war. On the contrary, all the defense officials, including the heads of the IDF Intelligence Directorate and the Shin Bet, assessed that Hamas was deterred. This was the assessment submitted time after time to the prime minister and the cabinet by all the entities in the defense and the intelligence community right up until the war broke out.”

On Sunday morning, harsh criticism was directed at the prime minister’s statement for blaming the IDF while it was busy fighting the war in Gaza.

Among others, former IDF Chiefs of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and Gadi Eisenkot blasted Netanyahu, while opposition leader Yair Lapid of the Yesh Atid party accused him of crossing a “red line” and claimed to have received intelligence warnings just weeks before Oct. 7.

Former IDF chief, Benny Gantz, a member of the emergency government and the war cabinet – who just hours before had stood alongside Netanyahu during the press briefing – also criticized the prime minister.

“This morning in particular, I would like to back and strengthen all the security forces and IDF soldiers - including the Chief of Staff, the head of the Security Forces and the head of the Shin Bet,” Gantz wrote on X.

“When we are at war, leadership show responsibility, decide to do the right things and strengthen the forces in must such a way that they can realize what we demand of them. Any other action or statement - harms the people's resilience and strength. The Prime Minister must retract his statement last night, and stop dealing with the issue,” Gantz wrote.

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich struck a more conciliatory note, saying it was wrong to weaken the IDF during the fighting, but also called for the government to “show responsibility, goodwill, let things go, back up and strengthen each other, even when we are wrong. Only together with God’s help will we win.”

Shortly after, Netanyahu’s original tweet was deleted, before the prime minister published an unusually candid apology.

“I was wrong. Things I said following the press conference should not have been said and I apologize for that. I give full backing to all the heads of the security arms. I am strengthening the chief of staff and the commanders and soldiers of the IDF who are at the front and fighting for our home. Together we will win.”

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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