“The family of [Bashar] Assad deserves to be toppled down by its own people,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak said last week.
Barak spent the weekend in Davos, Switzerland, at the World Economic Forum, where he was interviewed by several international TV stations.
Speaking to BBC on the situation in Syria, Barak said that “the Assad family, which reigned [in Syria] with an iron fist for decades, will come to an end. The view from Douma, of army forces pulling out and leaving it in the hands of the Syrian Free Army, is something that was inconceivable less than a year ago.”
The defense minister was referring to a battle in a city on the outskirts of Damascus on Thursday, where rebel forces defeated Assad-loyalist troops and slowly made their way into the Syrian capital.
Asked whether Israel would get involved if an international coalition intervened in Syria, as was the case in Libya leading up to the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi, Barak said he did not think Jerusalem should meddle in an internal Arab affair.
“We are of course watching [developments in Syria], not nervously, but cautiously, especially looking for the possibility that there will be an attempt to move modern weapon systems, air defense systems or heavy rockets from Syria into the Hezbollah- held southern Lebanon,” Barak said.
He commended the Arab League’s resolve on the Syrian issue, saying it showed “both courage, determination and a proof of their sincerity, becoming a real player on the world arena. I don’t think Israel should express its voice regarding inter-Arab decisions.”
Barak warned that the change brought about by Arab Spring revolutions may be slow in coming and may in the interim produce more repression and violence in many countries where Islamist-leaning parties filled the vacuum left by ousted dictators.
“You know, in the long term it’s inspiring – even moving – the events all around the Arab world; the hope, people standing on their feet and demanding rights taken for granted in the UK, in North America.
“But in the middle term and the short term it’s going to be tough – I don’t expect any Vaclav Havel kind of intellectual moral beacon to take over an Arab society...
The Arab societies are not fully ripe for democracy and we know it in the Western world,” the defense minister said.
He added that the Israeli government viewed developments in Syria positively, since Damascus was a main link in the chain connecting Iran to the Shi’ite terrorist group Hezbollah in Lebanon.
“Israel will not prejudge [Arab Spring revolutionaries] and we will keep hoping that in Syria, the toppling of the Assads will be a major blow to the radical axis stretching from Iran to south Iraq to Damascus and Hezbollah in Lebanon,” Barak said.
Jerusalem Post Annual Conference. Buy it now, Special offer. Come meet Israel's top leaders