The rhetorical ping-pong between Jerusalem and Damascus continued over the weekend, though at a lower level of intensity, with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman saying Israel should not be mum when another country threatens to attack its cities, and a Syrian government mouthpiece says Damascus is ready for either peace or war.
Lieberman – who created waves on Thursday during a speech at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan by saying Syrian President Bashar Assad should know that in a war with Israel, he would not only lose militarily, but would also lose his control of Syria – defended those statements on Friday, saying he did not regret them.
In an interview on Channel 1, Lieberman said he was amazed by the negative reactions his words generated on the Israeli political scene.
“I must say that I am always surprised anew,” he said. “It needs to be understood that we are not looking for either confrontation or friction with Syria, but when the Syrian foreign minister says that they will attack population centers in Israel, that is crossing a red line.”
On Wednesday, Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid Muallem warned that Israel “should not test Syria’s determination” and added that Israel “should know that a war will move to Israeli cities.”
Lieberman said that Assad, the same day, delivered a similar message.
“A red line was crossed like we have never seen before,” Lieberman said. “A direct threat to attack population centers. What I said was said at the right time and in the right dosage. I regret neither the content nor the manner. What has the policy of obsequiousness given us? We left Gush Katif [in 2005’s Gaza disengagement]. What did we get in return? Hamas and Operation Cast Lead [in 2006].”
Reiterating what he said at Bar-Ilan, Lieberman said he was opposed to a withdrawal from the Golan Heights.
“I think that the Golan Heights need to remain a part of Israel,” he said. “Just as Syria gave up on its dream of Greater Syria and opened an embassy in Lebanon, there is no reason why that can’t happen in our case as well.”
Syria’s official newspaper Tishreen
said in an editorial on Saturday that while Damascus was ready to make peace with Israel, it was also prepared for war.
Reacting to Lieberman’s comments on Thursday,
the paper wrote, “The path to destruction could lead to the moment that Israel will comply with its leaders, who have criminality flowing through their veins... Whichever path Israel chooses, it will find Syria ready for either peace or war.”