US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant at IDF military headquarters in Tel Aviv on Friday, stating in reference to Hamas's assault on southern Israel and the IDF’s counterattack, “this is no time for neutrality or false equivalence.”
Making the point that Hamas is an evil group which Israel and the IDF should never be compared to when responding in self-defense, he said, "I know ISIS very well, and it's worse than what I've seen with ISIS."
Further, Austin said that Hamas has “nothing to offer but zealotry, bigotry, and death,” noting this past Saturday was “the bloodiest since the Holocaust” for Jews worldwide.
"I came here to make something clear: American support for Israel is ironclad," said the secretary of defense.
Next, he said, "For anyone thinking about trying to take advantage of this atrocity, to try to widen the conflict or to spill more blood, we have just one word: don't. The world is watching and so are we, and we aren't going anywhere."
Austin stressed that the US is powerful enough to support both Ukraine and Israel, saying "the US can walk and chew gum at the same time."
He referenced that the US had already sent the US Gerald Ford strike force with the world’s largest aircraft carrier into the region and augmented US air power throughout the Middle East” to deter Iran and others from risking more conflict.
Moreover, he said the US would supply Israel with munitions, air defense items, including more Iron Dome interceptors, and other equipment “at the speed of war.”
"It has been a terrible week. We have seen the horrific acts of this terrorist organization. As you know, I was the one who first planned the war on ISIS. So I know ISIS very well, and it's worse than what I've seen with ISIS," said Austin.
"Israel is a small country, a place where everybody knows everybody. In times of trial, the intimacy of your society deepens the intimacy of your grief. This is not a weakness, but a profound strength."
Austin referenced a story about former IDF major general Noam Tibon who raced to the frontlines as soon as he heard about the invasion in order to save his family, expressing his great admiration for Tibon.
"In times like these sometimes the best thing a friend can do is just to show up and get to work. This is no time for neutrality or for false equivalence or for excuses for the inexcusable. There is never a justification for terrorism, and this is especially true after this rampage by Hamas. Hamas does not speak for the Palestinian people or their legitimate hopes for security or statehood alongside Israel. The deliberate cruelty of Hamas vividly reminds me of ISIS, bloodthirsty, fanatical and hateful."
Austin stressed that "democracies like ours are stronger and more secure when we uphold the laws of war."
"Terrorists like Hamas deliberately target civilians, but democracies don't. This is a time for resolve and not revenge, for purpose and not panic, and for security and not surrender."
In response to a question about concerns of Palestinian civilians being harmed in Israel's response in Gaza, Austin stressed that he fought alongside Israeli forces in the past and they are "professional, disciplined, and focused on the right things."
Netanyahu thanked Austin for the support of the US, saying "Just as the civilized world came together to fight ISIS, the civilized world must come together to help us fight Hamas. I know you stand by us and we appreciate it very much."
Gallant thanked Austin for the US's support for Israel as well, saying that the entire region understands the significance of the alliance between the two countries.
"Our neighbor is Hamas, the ISIS of Gaza, an organization enjoying the Iranian payroll. I cannot let the world forget the brutal attacks Hamas terrorists conduct against Israeli women, children, elderly, and entire families. Murder, rape, kidnapping. This is a war for the existence of Israel as a prosperous state, as a democratic state, as the homeland for the Jewish people. This is a war for freedom and our common values and we are on the frontlines. We will win this war."
In response to a question about Iran's involvement in Hamas's assault, Gallant stressed that "Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas are one axis. Everything is directed generally from Iran, the permission is given by Iran, the money is supplied by Iran, and the ideas are shaped in Iran. Therefore it doesn't matter if they gave or didn't give the permission, the idea is an Iranian idea."