Ya'alon: Russia won't send S-300 to Syria until 2014

Defense minister tells Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Israel has no plans to intervene in Syria.

Yaalon and Liberman 370 (photo credit: Ariel Hermony/Defense Ministry)
Yaalon and Liberman 370
(photo credit: Ariel Hermony/Defense Ministry)
Syria will not get S-300 missiles from Russia until 2014, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday.
Ya’alon said Syria has turned into a wrestling arena for world powers and that the government’s policy is not to intervene in the civil war as long as it does not hurt Israeli interests, as in the transfer of advanced weaponry, like missiles or chemical weapons, to Hezbollah.
“The Defense Ministry is watching with concern to see if Russia sends Syria the S-300 missile system, but they have yet to be transferred, and if they are, it will only be in 2014,” Ya’alon stated.
Israel and the US asked Russia in recent weeks not to deliver the weapons system to Syria, but Russia said the missiles are defensive and needed by Syrian President Bashar Assad in his battle against rebel groups.
Syria could use the S-300 to create a no-fly zone, blocking the Israel Air Force from operating along the Syrian and Lebanese border.
Ya’alon pointed out that Israel provides humanitarian aid to Syrians, and as such, posted a field hospital near the border. When someone is seriously injured, he or she is brought to an Israeli hospital, he said. At the same time, the defense minister said, there is no plan to open refugee camps.
“Currently, neither side in Syria knows how to deal with successes in a way that will bring them to a victory,” Ya’alon explained. “Syria is split. Assad controls only 40 percent of the territory, and the rebels control at least four neighborhoods in Damascus.”
Ya’alon added that the war in Syria has moved into Lebanon, and that Hezbollah’s best forces are working for Assad.
The defense minister also discussed peace talks with the Palestinians, saying the government is prepared to start negotiations as long as there are no preconditions.
“Within a few weeks we will know if the efforts of the American secretary of state will allow talks to begin,” Ya’alon said. “We do not want to rule the Palestinians. We are prepared to start a peace process with them, but the Palestinians continue to avoid it by setting preconditions.”
Ya’alon added that the government is “not willing to pay just so the Palestinians will be willing to sit with us at the negotiation table. They already have political independence, and we can take their parliaments in Judea and Samaria as well as Gaza as proof of that.
It’s their problem that they decided to split up.”
The defense minister said there has been a recent increase in “disturbances” in Judea and Samaria, leading the Central Command to change its operational assessments in the area.
As for the Peri Committee recommendations, Ya’alon said it is “an open wound in Israeli society.”
“I would be happy to see more Arabs and haredim carrying the burden, but in light of the social sensitivities in the haredi public, I thought it would be better to encourage them and not attack them,” he explained. “The same goes for the Arab public.”
Ya’alon added that he does not think criminal sanctions against draft-dodgers is the correct thing to do.
Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Avigdor Liberman said he sees no reason not to actively enlist Arab citizens to civilian service.
Monday’s meeting of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee began with tension between Liberman and Ya’alon, with the former criticizing the latter for not allowing the committee to properly supervise the defense budget.
The Defense Ministry did not agree to a committee request to send certain IDF staff members to give overviews of their work, and sent other representatives instead.
“Before this meeting began, I had a talk with the defense minister, and we reached a compromise,” Liberman said.
“I hope that the agreements between us will go through the accepted conduits to all the relevant factors and will not remain with the defense minister.”
Ya’alon responded that he does not dispute the crucial work the committee does, but it is important to define what level of supervision is necessary.
“I hope that we can work together well,” he added. “As far as I’m concerned, the committee will have the full cooperation of the State of Israel’s defense establishment.”