With the Obama administration set to hold meetings this week on whether to arm
opposition forces in Syria, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu made clear on
Monday that Israel was not getting involved in that discussion.
does not take sides in the Syrian civil war,” Netanyahu said in a meeting of the
Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
According to government
officials, the prime minister has been consistently careful about not giving
advice to people who ask him whether the West should arm the Syrian
The official said that when asked, Netanyahu’s standard reply is
that it is necessary to “think carefully about which arms, and which
Netanyahu also referred to talk about undercover Israeli
soldiers fighting in Syria “nonsense.”
Netanyahu told the committee that
Iran is keeping Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime alive and has instructed
Hezbollah to actively fight in Syria.
“Iran is sending Assad money,
resources and experts.
For 40 years there was quiet in the Syrian arena,
and it could be that this is changing before our eyes,” he
According to Netanyahu, Syria decided to transfer advanced
weaponry to Hezbollah in larger quantities than before. These weapons transfers
are the result of an Iranian decision that could change the balance of
“Israel will do all it can to prevent these weapons from being
transferred to Hezbollah,” he added. “We have a clear policy to prevent
International Relations Minister Yuval Steinitz reiterated
Israel’s policy of staying clear of Syria’s strife unless Israel becomes a
target of Syrian fire.
Asked on Israel Radio about Israel’s position on
the debate in Washington, Steinitz said that since Israel does not want to get involved in the Syrian battles, it also does not want to give anyone
ammunition to say that Israel is involved.
“Each side there is trying to
say that we support the other,” he said. “We were not asked by Washington in one
way or another.
We are not interfering in Syria, and the world – the US –
will weigh their own steps.”
Speaking to foreign reporters in Jerusalem
later on Monday, Steinitz warned that Assad’s government “might not just survive
but even regain territories.”
Regarding Assad’s threat to open a front
against Israel on the Golan, Steinitz said that though he doubted this would
happen, caution demanded that Israel be prepared for every scenario, even “the
Refusing to relate to whether Israel would be more cautious in
the future about attacking weapons systems being transferred from Syria to
Hezbollah, something foreign reports have said Israel has done three times in
the last year, Steinitz said that his advice to Assad was to carefully weigh his
steps toward Israel.
“We are not interfering in the Syrian civil war, not
on this side or the other. We are not intervening at all, despite the horrible
tragedy that is happening close to us,” Steinitz said.
that Israel also had no interest in interfering in the future, he added that “it
would be better for him [Assad] not to test us with provocations.
will defend ourselves,” he said. “And if Assad thinks that he can carry out a
war of attrition against us on the Golan Heights, I suggest that he think again,
because he could act in a manner that would endanger his existence and that of
his regime. I’m sure that is not his intention, so he should be very
Assad issued a strong warning to Israel, saying that he is
completely serious in opening up the Golan front against Israel, Lebanese paper
Al-Akhbar reported on Monday.
The resistance will not launch primitive
rockets aimlessly from time to time, but will carry out a well-planned and
continuous resistance, Assad reportedly said to a group of visiting Jordanians.
He added that Israeli attacks will elicit a strategic, rather than a local
His mention of randomly fired rockets could be a slap at Hamas,
which often relies on this tactic when firing rockets from Gaza.
left its former base in Damascus in 2012, deciding to support fellow Sunnis
fighting in the Syrian opposition. The move angered Syria and its ally Iran,
which has decreased its support for the movement as a result.
compared this resistance to the kind waged by Hezbollah in southern Lebanon,
according to the report.
In regard to Russia, Assad explained that it has
not attempted to dictate a position on the country’s conflict.
Al-Manar TV in May that “there is pressure by the people to open a new front on
the Golan. Even among the Arab world there is a clear readiness to join the
fight against Israel.”
Assad stated that Hezbollah is involved in
fighting the Israeli enemy and its agents in Syria and Lebanon. He attributed
the failure of the Syrian opposition to its dependence on outside funding and
said that it failed to create a real rift in the country.
Assad also said
that he sees the balance of power in Syria shifting to the government’s side.
And this is despite the fact that the “terrorists” are smuggling fighters and
weapons through all of the borders.
In relation to Israel, he said, “If
we want to respond to Israel, the response must be strategic.”
Solomon contributed to this report. •