Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Avigdor Liberman surprisingly endorsed the deal reached over the weekend between the US and Russia on Syrian chemical weapons.
In a series of interviews with broadcast media, Liberman called the agreement a potentially great diplomatic achievement – but only if the international community ensures that Syrian President Bashar Assad abides by the deal.
“The arrangement with Syria is good for Israel in principle if it means Syria will have no chemical weapons, but the test will be in its implementation,” Liberman told Army Radio. “We shouldn’t enter [a state of] euphoria or panic.”
Liberman complained that the agreement would not end the fighting in Syria and noted that Assad has lied to the international community in the past.
“Assad has a very problematic record in every subject of reliability and good intentions,” he said. “Only recently he was still denying that Syria held chemical weapons.”
Liberman said the first test would come next week when Assad is expected to hand over an initial map outlining the sites of chemical weapons caches.
Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon expressed hope that the international community’s attention would now shift to Iran.
“The world must tell [Iranian President Hassan] Rouhani at the UN [General Assembly next week] that they won’t let Iran get nuclear weapons,” Danon said. “The world should not be satisfied with ridding Syria of chemical weapons. Iran is key.”
Opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich said it would be a major accomplishment if Syria loses such a powerful weapon.
“I disagree with the criticism there has been, subtly and openly, of the United States,” Yacimovich said. “We must remember that our alliance with the US is an important component of our security and that the US took upon itself the international leadership strategically and morally. They are doing that despite tension [with Russia] against a cruel dictator [in Assad] who does not hesitate to use weapons of mass destruction against his own people.”
Addressing the arrangement for Assad to give up his chemical weapons, Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom told Likud activists at a conference in Tel Aviv that “we’re sick of promises that aren’t fulfilled and agreements that aren’t kept.”
“Israel will know if the chemical weapons suddenly disappear or are moved. Our prime minister said many times that we won’t let weapons be transferred to other hands who want to endanger Israel,” Shalom stated.
Shalom paraphrased Netanyahu’s recent statements on Syria, saying that “Israel can always lean on the superpower, America, but in the moment of truth, we cannot ask anyone to act for us.”
The Likud minister said Syria used chemical weapons 14 times in the last two-anda- half years, but the world did nothing, and as such, he doubts whether they will act against Iran’s nuclear program.
“What would have happened if Syria had nuclear weapons? Would someone have acted?” he asked. “The international community knows Iran is developing nuclear weapons. We have to take care of ourselves.”