Israel is increasingly concerned that Damascus’s stockpile of chemical weapons
could “become a part of the Syrian crisis,” a government official said Monday,
explaining comments on the matter Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu made prior
to meeting visiting Republican senator-elect Ted Cruz from Texas.
Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement following the meeting, underlining
the chemical weapons issue.
According to the statement, Netanyahu told
Cruz – on his first visit to Israel – that Washington and Jerusalem share not
only common values, but also common dangers.
“One of these dangers is the
unfolding events in Syria,” he said. “We’re monitoring very closely the
possibility of the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
[Barack] Obama has spoken forcefully about this. Israel and the United States
have close consultations about this issue and it highlights the dangers of these
regimes receiving such weapons, and that these weapons can even go from there to
“This is a threat to Israel, a threat to
America, a threat to others in this region. We treat it
That the prime minister stressed this issue, and that his
office decided to release his comments on the matter to the press – out of all
the issues that were discussed between the two men – underscores the heightened
sensitivity to the matter in light of the continued bloodshed and growing chaos
Explaining Netanyahu’s comment, the government official said it
was important that “all the actors in Syria understand that this is a very
sensitive issue not only for Israel, but for the entire international
He said “irresponsible behavior” with the chemical weapons
would not be tolerated.
“We were not speaking this way two or three weeks
ago,” the official added.
Without elaborating, he said, “there are
reasons for our concerns.”
Cruz, a Cuban American who won his state’s
senate seat in November, said he believed the US should stand “unshakably”
alongside Israel. “I thank you personally, I thank your nation for its
leadership for democratic values in a very dangerous region of the
Cruz continued giving thanks “for your leadership protecting the
security of the nation and ultimately of the United States as well, with respect
to weapons of mass destruction – whether in Syria or Iran or elsewhere. I look
forward to continuing to work together to strengthen that friendship,” he
Meanwhile, Damascus said it is “genuinely worried” that some
countries might equip extremist groups with chemical weapons and then claim they
were used by the Syrian government, the country’s UN envoy said in a letter to
UN chief Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council.
Syria’s UN Ambassador
Bashar Ja’afari also accused the US government of supporting “terrorists” there
and waging a campaign that claims Syria could use chemical weapons in the
20-month-old civil war that has killed at least 40,000 people.
issue was raised, Syria has stated countless times that it will not under any
circumstances use any chemical weapons that it may have against its own people,”
The issue of chemical weapons in Syria is likely to come up on
Tuesday as well, when Netanyahu meets visiting Estonian Prime Minister Andrus
Ansip arrived on Monday for a 24-hour visit, the first by a
European leader since diplomatic tensions flared between Israel and the EU over
the EU’s November vote on the Palestinian state issue in the UN General
Assembly, and the Europeans’ furious reaction to Israel’s announcement of plans
to further construction plans in E1 linking Jerusalem to Ma’aleh
Estonia was one of 12 EU countries that abstained on the
Palestinian upgrade bid at the UN. Fourteen EU states voted for the resolution,
and only the Czech Republic, among the 27 EU states, voted against
Estonia’s vote at the UN was discussed during a meeting soon after
Ansip’s arrival, which he held with Foreign Minister Avigdor
Liberman’s recent verbal attacks on the EU, on the other hand,
were not discussed.
This was Liberman’s last official meeting as foreign
minister before his resignation comes into effect Tuesday
Reuters contributed to this report.