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Speaker Mike Johnson said he anticipates Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will accept an invitation to speak to a joint meeting of Congress this year.

Jake Sherman interviews Benjamin Netanyahu: Full transcript

JERUSALEM – In roughly one month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will come to Washington to address a joint meeting of Congress.

It’s against this backdrop that we went to Jerusalem to interview Netanyahu Thursday. Punchbowl News co-founder Jake Sherman discussed a wide range of issues with the longtime Israeli premier, including Netanyahu’s sharp disagreements with President Joe Biden, his views on Congress, pro-Palestinian protests in the United States and the wave of civilian deaths in Gaza.

Read the full transcript below.

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

JAKE: In a video message you released [a couple of days ago], you were pretty harsh on the Biden administration for withholding weapons. You got a lot of criticism from the administration, from pro-Israel Democrats saying you should keep these disagreements private. How do you respond to that?

NETANYAHU: I deeply appreciate the support we were given by President Biden and the United States administration for our war effort from the beginning. President Biden came here, he sent two carrier groups, and he gave us valuable assistance and ammunition and weapons from the beginning of the war. I appreciate that. And I remain appreciative.

We began to see that we had some significant problems emerging a few months ago. And in fact, we tried, in many, many quiet conversations between our officials and American officials, and between me and the president to try to iron out this diminution of supply.

And we haven’t been able to solve it. Now this is crucial. It’s crucial for our common war aims to defeat Hamas and to prevent an escalation in Lebanon to a full-fledged war to have this supply. Because, otherwise, it hinders Israel’s ability to fight this war, which is an actual war of survival and multi-front war against Iran, that Iran terror axis and its various terrorist minions, Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen and others.

I raised this issue with Secretary Blinken. And I said that we are being told by our Defense Department officials that barely a trickle is coming in. He said, ‘Well, everything is in process. We’re doing everything to untangle it. And to clear up the bottlenecks.’

And I said, ‘Well, that’s what I expect to happen. Let’s make sure that it does happen. It must happen.’ And I quoted Churchill, who said to Roosevelt in World War II, ‘Give us the tools and we’ll finish the job.’ I said, give us the tools, and we’ll finish the job a lot faster.

And of course, prevent future wars. We’ll win this war against Hamas, deter a future war in the north with this Hezbollah and assure our common interest in the Middle East. I felt that airing it was absolutely necessary after months of quiet conversation that did not solve the problem.

JAKE: Do you believe it?

NETANYAHU: Do I believe that it could be solved?

JAKE: That they want to solve it?

NETANYAHU: I think it could be solved instantaneously with goodwill – it could be solved right away.

JAKE: Do you think Biden is doing this for domestic political considerations? What’s your view on that?

NETANYAHU: I don’t know what’s causing it. But I’m aware that there has been a great slowdown in the provision of the important ammunition and weapons. I’m not talking about F-35s or F-16s that are years down the line. I’m talking about what is necessary now to both win the war in Gaza quickly and avoid a war in Lebanon that, in the absence of such a correction, the risks of it breaking out are increasing.

JAKE: Let me ask you about your speech next month. What is your goal? Some Democrats say they’re not going. You might be speaking to a room predominantly of Republicans. What is your goal and how do you respond to criticism that it will be overtly partisan and playing to Republicans?

NETANYAHU: I’m not a partisan, I’m not a Republican or a Democrat. I’m an Israeli patriot, and I speak on behalf of the Israeli people. I’m happy to see that in one poll after another when Americans are asked who do they support in this world? 80% percent say Israel and 20% say Hamas. 20% supporting Hamas is still an incredible number.

Who are they supporting — these murderers, these rapists of women, the beheaders of babies, the burning of innocent civilians, the taking of hostages, including Holocaust survivors. Well, it may not be that surprising because 20%, more or less, say that bin Laden was right and America was wrong. So there’s obviously an issue that affects parts of American society that challenges not Israel but challenges America.

The people who protest with these killers … You have Gays for Gaza. That’s an absurdity if I’ve ever heard one. If you are gay in Gaza, you’ll be shot in the back of the head. Women for Gaza. What are women in Gaza — they’re chattel and other such absurdities.

But nevertheless, they are there. And I hope they don’t control American politics. I intend to speak to the broad spectrum of the American people and to cull bipartisan support that is still solid in America and we need it to stay solid.

JAKE: Did you have a reaction to Chuck Schumer’s remarks calling for you to go? I mean, that is someone you’ve known for a very long time with a very large pro-Israel and Jewish population in his state.

NETANYAHU: Well, I think that democratic countries should not interfere with the democratic processes of other countries. And I think that that’s a rule that I’ve tried to accord, to live by. But I can’t say that others have abided equally to us. It’s wrong to do that. It shouldn’t be done.

JAKE: Democrats frequently complain about the civilian deaths — American weapons being used to kill innocent Gazan civilians. 40,000 people have died. What is your response to that?

NETANYAHU: I think there are two lies that are directed at us. One is that we’re deliberately targeting civilians. And the second is that we have a deliberate starvation policy. Each one is not only wrong, it’s diametrically opposed to the truth.

In terms of trying to avoid civilian casualties…the Israeli army has gone to lengths that no other army in history has gone to. One of the greatest experts on urban warfare in the world, Col. John Spencer of West Point, says that Israel’s efforts are unprecedented. We send millions of text messages, leaflets, phone calls to Palestinian civilians, giving up the element of surprise, telling them to get out of harm’s way. While Hamas does everything to keep them in harm’s way, including shooting them if they try to leave.

But nevertheless, they have left. And that’s why the ratio of civilians to combatant casualties in Gaza is roughly one to one, which is the lowest in modern urban warfare. People said you can’t go into Rafa because there are going to be tens of thousands of civilian casualties.

You know, how many civilian casualties we’ve had? … The chief of staff told me. ‘Use the word dozens.’ We’ve killed about 600 terrorists in Gaza. So is it dozens? Is it somewhat more than that? It’s still the lowest ratio in recorded urban warfare. In Fallujah, in Mosul, in many other places in Afghanistan, in Iraq, the dense urban combat produced much, much greater casualties than one-to-one ratios.

So Israel is going out of its way to avoid them, to avoid these casualties. And it’s given a bum rap. This is a blood libel against the Jewish people. And it’s a Jewish state that resembles the blood libel that was leveled at the Jewish people throughout the Middle Ages and modern time.

The second falsehood is that we have a deliberate starvation policy. What starvation policy? We’ve enabled, since the beginning of the war, for 25,000 trucks to enter Gaza. That’s half a million tons of food and medicine. And that’s about 3,200 calories per person, which is about 1,000 calories over the standard requirement.

We have paved roads for these trucks to come in, opened new border crossings for these trucks to come in, enabled aerial airdrops, enabled maritime routes to be established. This is a complete falsification. In fact, the price of food in Gaza has plummeted by 80%. And markets don’t lie. And yet this is what we hear.

So these are two of these slanders that are leveled at the Jewish state, much as they said that we are killing Christian children to bake Matzos in the Middle Ages or that we’re spreading vermin to poison the entire populations. … But I’m glad to say that most of the American people don’t buy it.

JAKE: One thing we hear on the Hill from Democrats who are pro-Israel, they want to know what happens after in Gaza. How do you respond to that?

NETANYAHU: I think we’re going to have to have sustained demilitarization, which can only be done by Israel against any resurgent terrorist effort. But I think there has to be a civilian administration to administer not only the distribution of humanitarian aid but also civil administration. That has to be done, I think best done, with the cooperation of an inter-Arab sponsorship and assistance by Arab countries.

And then the third thing would be obviously some kind of deradicalization process that would begin in the schools and the mosques to teach these people a different future than the one of annihilating Israel and killing every Jew on the planet. And the fourth, it would be reconstruction, which would be largely taken, I think, by the international community.

— Jake Sherman

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