Israel does not subscribe to the “better the devil you know” philosophy
regarding Syrian President Bashar Assad and the developments in Syria, Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu made clear in an Al Arabiya interview that will air
“We don’t intervene in what happens in Syria, but we obviously
would like to have peaceful relations with Syria,” Netanyahu said in the first
interview he has given to a pan- Arab network since coming into office in
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“We can only hope for a good future for the people of Syria. They
deserve a good future, one of peace and one of freedom.” Excerpts from the
interview on the Saudi-owned, Dubai-based network were broadcast on its website
Asked whether it was not correct that Assad, and his father,
Hafez, had been indispensable to Israel because they had kept the Golan border
quiet for 40 years, Netanyahu replied that this was not correct.
people saying it – but in point of fact, we are not there to choose the next
regime, the next government of Syria. I think it is for the people of Syria to
Netanyahu said Israel had never had a state of peace with Syria,
only a state of “no peace, no war. Even though several people tried, including
myself in secret negotiations, to move toward a formal peace.”
minister said that anything he said about the developments in Syria would be
used against “the process of genuine reform people would like to see in
He added, however, that this did not mean Israel was not
concerned about the developments there.
Netanyahu said Israel's interests
in Syria were for the peace and quiet on the border to be maintained, for a
formal peace treaty to be reached between the two countries, and for the “young
people of Syria” to have a better future.
He said any attempt by Syria,
Iran or Hezbollah to distract attention from the domestic situation in Syria by
heating up the border with Israel would be “bad for the people of Lebanon, bad
for the people of Syria, bad for Israel, bad for peace. I hope it doesn’t
Regarding the diplomatic process with the Palestinians,
Netanyahu reiterated what he has said numerous times in the past: that he was
willing to sit down immediately and negotiate with PA President Mahmoud Abbas,
be it in Jerusalem, Ramallah, or elsewhere.
He said that when
negotiations start, everything – including Jerusalem and refugees – would be on
“But we have to get to the table,” he said.
Rudaineh, Abbas’s spokesman, was quoted by Israel Radio as having responded by
saying that the Palestinians would meet Netanyahu anywhere as well, as long as
he first froze settlement construction and accepted that the negotiations had to
begin on the basis of the 1967 lines.
One government official said
Rudaineh’s comment illustrated that the “fundamental reason” for the current
impasse was the decision by the PA to refuse to negotiate by placing
preconditions that were never there in the past.
“No government,” the
official said, “has ever agreed to negotiate based on the 1967 lines.”
the Al Arabiyeh interview, Netanyahu also defended the naval blockade of Gaza,
saying that one ship to Gaza could bring as many missiles into the
Hamas-controlled region as were fired at Israel during the entire Second Lebanon
Israel won’t open the sea lines into Gaza until there is a regime
there that “makes peace with Israel and doesn’t fire rockets into Israel,” he
“We have no argument or battle with the people of Gaza; we are
concerned with Hamas, a terrorist organization that fires rockets into
Israel. That is what we are concerned with, and that is the only reason
for our naval action.”