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The Telegraph
The Telegraph
24 Feb 2024
Jotam Confino; Natalie Lisbona

We will defeat Hamas with or without British weapons, says Netenyahu adviser

Israel will defeat Hamas whether or not Britain decides to restrict arms exports, Benjamin Netanyahu’s top foreign policy adviser has said.

Israel’s allies have been piling on the pressure to stop its planned military operation in Rafah, with Britain reportedly mulling a restriction on weapons sales to the country if the offensive goes ahead.

When asked about the possible move by Downing Street, Ophir Falk told the Sunday Telegraph he wasn’t aware of the reports but said: “If they were accurate, that would be disappointing.

“But with or without it, we will do what it takes to finish the job. We will take out the Hamas battalions in Rafah – that’s their last stronghold,” he said.

Israel’s closest allies, the UK and US, have both repeatedly warned Israel not to launch an operation in Rafah, where around 1.3 million Palestinians are currently sheltering, until there’s a viable plan to evacuate the civilians.

It’s widely believed that the US is the only country capable of strong-arming Israel into calling off its offensive in Rafah because of the massive military and financial support it provides.

US gives Israel $3.8bn annually

Washington provides $3.8 billion dollars in military support for Israel every year. Israel is required to spend approximately $3.3 billion of the aid on US military equipment and services, but has also been given permission to purchase equipment from Israeli defence firms.

Another $500 million a year is earmarked for joint US-Israeli missile defence programs, which so far have produced the highly advanced Iron Dome, David’s Sling, and Arrow II missile defence systems, all of which have been used since October to shoot down missiles from Gaza, Yemen, Lebanon and Syria.

Israel also purchased F-35 fighter jets from the US, making it the only country in the middle east to possess what is considered the most advanced fighter plane in the world.

Britain’s military support for Israel, by contrast, is much less significant. Last year the Government granted 114 standard individual export licences for military goods valued at £42 million to Israel, according to a Commons briefing.

In October, Lloyd Austin, the US defence secretary, said that Washington would set “no red lines” over Israel’s military activity in Gaza, but mounting criticism from President Joe Biden over the high civilian death toll have set alarm bells ringing.

‘Hamas will come to London’

Mr Falk said, however, that there was nothing that could dissuade Israel from continuing with its war against Hamas.

“We’re going to destroy Hamas wherever they are in Gaza. That’s in the best interest of the UK as well and the entire civilised world,” he said.

Mr Falk said he believes that, despite the mounting opposition to the Rafah operation, Israel still has “very strong support in the United States and in the UK and many others to destroy Hamas”.

“The thing that should be on the plate right now is to free the hostages and to destroy Hamas capabilities so they can never attack us again. Our allies should stick by us. Prime Minister Sunak has been very, very supportive as have the majority of the British,” he added.

Mr Falk also responded to Prince William’s call for a ceasefire.

“We also want an end to the fighting. That will happen after Hamas is destroyed. If we don’t destroy Hamas they will come to London, if they’re not there already.’’