Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday issued a rare apology after assigning sole responsibility to the country’s intelligence and security services for not preventing an attack the Hamas militant group launched on the country on Oct. 7.
Following a press conference alongside his war cabinet members Benny Gantz and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Netanyahu posted on social media that he was not given a warning about the terrorist group’s plans by the country’s security and intelligence agencies, essentially absolving himself of responsibility.
“On the contrary, the assessment of the entire security echelon, including the head of military intelligence and the head of Shin Bet, was that Hamas was deterred and was seeking an arrangement,” he wrote on X (formerly Twitter), according to a translation provided by The New York Times.
His statement was met with sharp criticism from several officials. Gantz, a former defense minister and current cabinet minister, called on Netanyahu to retract his comments.
Leader of the opposition and former Prime Minister Yair Lapid echoed Gantz, saying Netanyahu “crossed a red line” with his words.
“The attempts to evade responsibility and place the blame on the security establishment weakens the [Israeli Defense Forces] while it’s fighting Israel’s enemies,” Lapid said, according to a translation shared by Reuters.
The reaction prompted Netanyahu to delete his earlier post and issue a new statement showing remorse.
“I was wrong,” he said, according to the Times. “Things I said following the news conference should not have been said and I apologize for that.”
Netanyahu has so far refrained from accepting responsibility for the Oct. 7 attack as other government officials have apologized for the failure that led to at least 1,400 Israelis, mostly civilians, being killed and over 200 people being kidnapped by Hamas.
In a television address last week, Netanyahu said the government, including himself, will eventually have to speak to how the attack was allowed to happen in the first place.
“The debacle will be checked to the full,” he said on Wednesday, according to The Times of Israel. “Everyone will have to give answers on the debacle — including me — but all that will happen only after the war.”
Still, the majority of Israelis appear to want to see their leader take responsibility, according to a poll by the Maariv newspaper earlier this month.
For now, Netanyahu appears to be focused on what he described as the “second stage” of the conflict as Israel’s forces make advances toward Gaza City. So far, over 8,000 Palestinians, mostly women and minors, have been killed, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, as Israel launches airstrikes on the besieged territory in its effort to wipe out Hamas.
U.S. officials, including Vice President Kamala Harris, have called on the country to take every possible step to protect Palestinian civilians.
“The Palestinians deserve equal measures of safety and security, self-determination and dignity, and we have been very clear that the rules of war must be adhered to and that there be humanitarian aid that flows,” Harris told CBS’ “60 Minutes.”