Netanyahu and Assad.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
It’s doubtful that Syrian President Bashar Assad will continue to rule Syria in the future, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday as he spoke with Moscow’s Jewish community at the end of his two-day visit there.
“What will Israel’s future relationship with Assad,” one community member asked Netanyahu.
“I’m questioning whether Assad has a future at all,” Netanyahu responded.
But he clarified that Israel is not involved in any attempts to unseat Assad and that it is involved in the Syrian conflict only to the extant that is necessary to protect Israeli interests.
This is particularly true with regard to Iran which already operates in Syria.
“We want to ensure that Syria does not become a launching ground for attacks against Israel, not by Syrian forces, not by Iranian forces, not by Hizbollah and not by Islamic forces.
“My policy is to take all steps necessary to prevent this,” he said.
Netanyahu explained that Israel has placed a field hospital on its border with Syria to treat the wounded from the many battles that take place there, some of whom are then transferred to proper Israeli hospitals.
“We are standing by our red lines with respect to Israel’s security,” he said.
Once the Syrian conflict has ended it is unlikely that the country will look the same as it did before the outbreak of its civil war, he said.
“I do not know if we can put the Syrian omelet back in the egg,” Netanyahu said.
Syria is not the only country in this situation, he said. Iraq, Libya and Yemen no longer exist the way they use to, so a new order will be needed.
Netanyahu told the Jewish community he has discussed at length this new order with President Vladimir Putin when the two met on Tuesday in the Kremlin.
“Its import that they are replaced in a way that does not generate future tragedies or endanger our state,” he said.
Israel reportedly launched dozens of strikes in Syria
in April against suspected arms transfers to Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas.
Israeli leaders have sought assurances from Russia, which sent forces to Syria last year to help Assad, that it would not allow Iran and Hezbollah to be bolstered by the partial military withdrawal that Moscow announced last month. Israel and Russia have maintained a hotline to prevent any accidental clash between their aircraft over Syrian territory.
Continued talks on the coordination of these maneuvers were part of the Netanyahu’s discussions with Putin.
He also spoke with Putin about his concerns that Russian arms in the area have been smuggled to terrorist groups bent on Israel’s destruction, particularly Hezbollah on Israel’s Lebanese border.
In an interview with the Russian news agency Interfax before his trip, Netanyahu said, “Israel will continue to share its concerns with the Russian government regarding Hezbollah.
“This terrorist group has called for the murder of every Jew and therefore must be prevented from acquiring advanced weaponry from anyone. Hezbollah launched thousands of missiles at our civilians and we will not allow them to amass even more sophisticated weaponry on our border,” Netanyahu said.Reuters contributed to this report.