In between more accurate reporting on Wednesday’s edition of the PBS NewsHour concerning an errant Palestinian rocket that landed near a hospital in the Gaza Strip, show host Amna Nawaz offensively attempted to leave the question of responsibility open: Could the untrustworthy Israeli military still be blamed for the bombing?
Nawaz talked to National Security Adviser Jon Finer and led off with the hospital bombing, quibbling over whether to fully trust Israel on the matter, as if she trusted lying Hamas terrorists more than the actual video and photographic evidence supplied by the Israeli Defense Forces:
Nawaz dredged up reasons to believe Hamas lies: “As you have seen and you know, there will be those who continue to believe that Israel was behind it, largely because Israel has carried out strikes on medical facilities and shelters and ambulances before. I wonder, what kind of commitment did President Biden get from Prime Minister Netanyahu to stop targeting and stop hitting civilian and medical facilities?”
Does Nawaz truly think Israel was purposely targeting civilian and medical facilities the way the Palestinians did? Did she think the evidence that a Palestinian rocket hit the hospital parking lot was somehow made up?
Finer pivoted to a possible delay in Israel’s expected ground invasion of the Gaza Strip with a series of specific questions as if a U.S. national security adviser would actually go into detail on television about future Israeli war tactics:
Finer explained that the Gaza Strip posed “a very challenging military problem that they are confronted with, which is a terrorist organization that is hiding among a population of more than two million people.”
Nawaz seemed to pushing for a ceasefire of sorts. “But, Jon, is that to say that a ground invasion is not inevitable?” she wondered. Finer again demurred.
7:15:23 p.m. (ET)
Amna Nawaz: We turn to deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer. Jon, welcome back. Thanks for joining us. I want to begin with what the president said today about that hospital strike in Gaza yesterday, just to underscore it, because I think transparency is really important here. The president said it’s based on U.S. intelligence that he can say that strike was not carried out by Israel.
Is it fair to say the U.S. believes there is no way Israel could have been behind that strike?
Jon Finer, U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser: So, what I can say at this point is basically exactly what the president said, which is that, based on our review of our own intelligence, on open-source information, including photos and videos that people at the scene have presented on overhead imagery, on intercepts of conversations, we believe that Israel is not responsible for this strike, that initial reports were inaccurate.
And we endeavored not to jump to conclusions upon receiving those reports. We did our homework and our diligence to try to find out what happened, to the best of our ability, and urge others to do the same, because there are going to be many more incidents reported during the course of this conflict.
Amna Nawaz: As you have seen and you know, there will be those who continue to believe that Israel was behind it, largely because Israel has carried out strikes on medical facilities and shelters and ambulances before.
I wonder, what kind of commitment did President Biden get from Prime Minister Netanyahu to stop targeting and stop hitting civilian and medical facilities?
Jon Finer: So I think one thing that’s very important to say with regard to the hospital is, regardless of who ultimately was responsible for the explosion, and we have made our views clear, this was a horrific tragedy, with a loss of life that is almost unimaginable.
The president, first and foremost, is a deeply empathetic human being. And so part of the message that he carried with him to Israel today was a solidarity and empathy to the people of Israel, who have been through an enormous tragedy in the wake of these Hamas attacks. But he also brought with him empathy for the Palestinian community that is suffering right now in real time in Gaza, including many innocent people who were caught up in the attacks that took place last night.
Amna Nawaz: Did he get a commitment from Mr. Netanyahu that he would minimize civilian casualties?
Jon Finer: We have been very clear, and the president has been very direct, as he has said publicly in his conversations with Prime Minister Netanyahu, that democracies are strongest when they act in accordance with the rule of law, with the laws of war, with international humanitarian law, in particular, during the conduct of military operations.
That was a significant component of every conversation they have had, including the conversations that took place today.
Amna Nawaz: Tell me about the conversations over the hostages, the American hostages, in particular.
Does the U.S. want to see those hostages released before Israel carries out any kind of ground invasion?
Jon Finer: So, the Americans who are caught up in this situation are foremost on the mind of the president and every single one of us. He has directed our entire team to put this at the very top of our list of priorities.
We have sent expertise to the region, experts in hostage recovery to consult with the Israelis, who will be in the lead on all of this. And we are going to do everything within our powers and our capabilities to try to get these people home. But this is a very difficult situation. Where these hostages are being — exactly where they’re being held is something that we are working on determining, but we do not have perfect visibility.
We will share everything that we get with the Israelis and do everything we can, as the president told the families of some of these people who are in this situation in the conversations he’s had directly with them.
Amna Nawaz: Well, the president said a short time ago on Air Force One that he had a long talk about alternatives to a ground invasion with Prime Minister Netanyahu.
What are those alternatives
Jon Finer: So, I’m not going to detail operational conversations that the president had, not just, by the way, with the prime minister, but with Israel’s war cabinet that has been assembled to help manage this military operation. Those are obviously the most sensitive conversations that take place between two governments.
But one of the things the president did was travel to Israel, not just to show solidarity, although that was a very important part of his message, but to make sure that Israeli officials are thinking through all of the hard questions as they tackle what is, by all accounts, a very challenging military problem that they are confronted with, which is a terrorist organization that is hiding among a population of more than two million people.
And the president and our team, national security team, is working with the Israelis to try to think through how best to address this challenge that they face.
Amna Nawaz: But, Jon, is that to say that a ground invasion is not inevitable?
Jon Finer: I’m not going to predict and I’m not going to foreshadow what exactly the Israelis are likely to do when it comes to their military operations.
It wouldn’t be appropriate, based on those conversations. And, ultimately, that will be a decision that is up to them. But this was very much a topic of conversation today during the president’s visit to Israel.
Amna Nawaz: And what about the Americans who are trapped in Gaza? There are reportedly hundreds of them. How is the U.S. going to get them out?
Jon Finer: So, we have been in constant communication with Americans who are resident in Gaza, some number of whom we know would like to leave.
Getting out of Gaza is a challenging thing to do under the best of circumstances. In a conflict like this, it requires the forbearance of the government of Israel, which said today that they would work to allow humanitarian assistance in.
That was a significant step forward that occurred in the context of the president’s visit. But you also need Hamas to allow people to move within Gaza and to the crossing into Egypt and then the government of Egypt to essentially open the door on the other side.
And so we are working on all pieces of that diplomacy to get humanitarian assistance in, which the president said would happen soon, and get people and certainly American citizens and people who are wounded who want to get out of Gaza out, and out safely.
Amna Nawaz: When you say you’re working on that, do I take that to mean that there is not currently a plan to evacuate those Americans, even as Israel continues its bombardment of that area?
Jon Finer: I’m not going to get ahead of actual developments on the ground, but we are working day in, day out to make sure that Americans who want to leave can leave, and we’re going to continue to do that.
Amna Nawaz: In the minute or so we have left, I need to ask you about whether or not President Biden talked with Prime Minister Netanyahu about what happens after a potential ground invasion.
I know you don’t want to get ahead of operational details, but is there a conversation about who would take over that territory?
Jon Finer: So, this is a significant challenge and a very difficult problem. It’s something that we have done something about inside our government.
We know the government of Israel is thinking about it too, something that we will consult with them about, with other countries in the region that will have a stake in the future governance of Gaza. But we have not ourselves arrived at a perfect solution to this challenge, nor do we think that anybody else has.
What the Israelis have said is that the status quo ante, the situation that prevailed before these terrorist attacks, cannot be restored. They cannot live with that. And so that does leave open the question of what comes on the day after, and we’re going to continue to work through that problem with them and with others.