Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu convened his senior ministers and top IDF and
security officials to discuss Syria. The group met amid heightened concern that
the country’s stockpile of chemical weapons may fall into the hands of
Hezbollah, or other terrorist organizations.
That these high-level
meetings are taking place even as Netanyahu is busy with informal coalition
negotiations and is the head of a lameduck government, only underlines the
urgency of the situation.
The developments in the region did not wait for
the election results and “will not stop during the formation of the government,”
Netanyahu said at the start of Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting. He said that
Israel must look carefully at what is happening “with the deadly weapons in
Syria, which is increasingly coming apart.”
One government adviser,
however, said Netanyahu might have a secondary interest in playing up security
threats now, in order to help him quickly put together a coalition given the
setbacks Likud Beytenu suffered in last week’s elections. According to this
reasoning, playing up the security threats will increase a sense of urgency
among the potential coalition partners in finishing the coalition building
process as soon as possible.
Nevertheless, the adviser said, “Syria is a
serious business, and the people dealing with it in Israel are
Citing International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which was
commemorated on Sunday, Netanyahu told the cabinet that Israel does not “make
light” of threats “to destroy the state of the Jews.” The primary mission of the
government is to thwart those threats, he said.
“What has changed [since
the Holocaust] is the ability of the Jews to defend themselves.
ability finds expression in the state, the military and the security services,
and in our willingness to act against those who come to destroy us,” he
“This ability is the difference between what was then and what
there is today.
Nobody will defend the Jews if they are not ready to
defend themselves; this is another lesson of the Holocaust. It is impossible to
rely on separate and independent action to defend the Jews if the Jews will not
Netanyahu said at the cabinet meeting that in
addition to the threats from Syria and Iran, “in the east, north and south,
everything is in ferment and we must be prepared.
To this end, I would
like to form the broadest and most stable government as possible in order –
first of all – to meet the significant security threats that face the State of
Israel, and I am convinced of our ability to deal with these
Meanwhile, Vice Premier Silvan Shalom told reporters at the
outset of the cabinet meeting that the “countries of the free world” agree that
it is necessary to prevent the “leakage of chemical weapons” to extremist
Shalom told Army Radio that these weapons in the hands of
Hezbollah or the rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad “would
dramatically change the capabilities of those organizations.”
separately by Army Radio, Home Front Defense Minister Avi Dichter said Syria was
“on the verge of collapse.”
But asked whether Israel perceived an
imminent threat, Dichter said: “No, not yet. I suppose that when things pose a
danger to us, the State of Israel will know about it.”
contributed to this report.