Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned Syrian President Bashar Assad on Thursday that in an event of war with Israel, "not only will you lose the war, you and your family will no longer be in power."
The leaders in Syria care only about their power, Lieberman claimed at an event at Bar-Ilan University, and therefore it is important that Damascus understands a war with Israel will drive Bashar Assad and the Assad family out of power.
"I tell Assad and [Syrian Foreign Minister Walid] al-Moallem clearly - what was said yesterday marked a dramatic change of game, a direct threat on the State of Israel. I think that a line was crossed, and this cannot be tolerated," the foreign minister said.
"We heard Defense Minister [Ehud] Barak's sincere call for peace with Syria, and we have now received Syria's answer. Whoever thinks territorial concessions will disconnect Damascus from the Axis of Evil is wrong," Lieberman asserted.
The foreign minister went on to stress that he supports peace with Syria as long as the Golan Heights remain in Israel's hands.
"Syria must understand that it has to let go of the demand for the Golan, in the same way that it gave up on the Greater Syria dream," said Lieberman.
Lieberman also warned the Palestinian Authority, and called on the Palestinian leadership to resume peace talks with Israel.
"I want to tell [PA Prime Minister] Salam Fayyad and Abu-Mazen [PA President Mahmoud Abbas]: Without immediate, direct negotiations, not only will you not have a state in two years, you will also lose control over Judea and Samaria as you did in Gaza. Negotiations are not only an Israeli interest, nor a favor that anyone does for Israel."
Lieberman's remarks came hours after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu expressed disappointment with Assad’s claim that Israel was pushing the region towards war, saying instead that the reality was quite the opposite.
"Netanyahu has said many times that he would be prepared to meet and negotiate with Syria, as long as [Damascus] does not set any preconditions. Unfortunately, Syria is the one that is setting obstacles [to peace]," the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement overnight Wednesday.
Vice Premier Silvan Shalom made similar remarks to Army Radio on Thursday morning, saying that he supports and has always supported holding peace talks with Syria. "The peace process with Damascus is much more ripe than the Palestinian process," Shalom told the radio station.
On Wednesday, in a meeting with Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, Assad had said that “Israel is not serious about achieving peace since all facts point out that Israel is pushing the region towards war, not peace."