Israel will continue to defend its interests in Syria, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the fourth annual Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference on Wednesday, in advance of his scheduled meeting in Paris later this month with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“I have made it clear that we will not tolerate the use of Syrian territory to attack our positions in the Golan or anywhere else in Israel,” Netanyahu said.
He later spoke with Putin by telephone to express his condolences over the Metrojet plane that exploded in the Sinai desert earlier this month, en route from Egypt to Russia.
It is believed that ISIS terrorists placed a bomb on the plane.
The two leaders also discussed Syria, as they did in September when Netanyahu flew to Moscow, in order to coordinate separate air strikes and ensure they do not become entangled.
Then Netanyahu told Putin, “Lets make sure that our pilots do not shoot down each other, which is a sensible approach.
Let us make sure that we are coordinated – their air defenses, our air power.”
“We did what is a deconfliction. I can’t tell you what will be the outcome of the Russian involvement, that is too early to say, but I can tell you that I defined Israel’s interest under any scenario,” Netanyahu said.
He said it is unclear to him whether a deal with regard to Syria would be struck in Vienna.
A deal must take Israel’s interests and concerns into account.
“It must have Israel’s interests at the table. That means we cannot accept a resolution in Syria that continues to enable Iran and Hezbollah to use Syria to attack Israel,” Netanyahu said.
This includes not allowing Iran to transfer arms through Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon, he said, adding that this is particularly true of game-changing weapons.
Iran cannot be allowed to open a second front against Israel on the Golan Heights, Netanyahu continued. He made this clear to US President Barack Obama when the two men met in Washington last week.
Obama will also attend the climate talks in Paris.
US Ambassador Dan Shapiro told the conference that Israel is “right to highlight its interests in not allowing any outcome in Syria to permit Iran to conduct or sponsor terrorist attacks on Israel across the Golan Heights frontier, or to expand its provision of sophisticated weapons systems to Hezbollah in Lebanon.”
In addition, he said, “Israel must also watch the other extremist elements in Syria, such as ISIL and the Nusra Front, with a wary eye.”
The US, Shapiro said, will “work to protect these Israeli interests, which are also American interests,” as the diplomatic process regarding the future of Syria unfolds.
While Netanyahu was careful not to say what exactly Israel wishes will emerge in Syria, Shapiro had no such compunctions, saying “Our challenge in Syria is to create conditions under which a clear and broadly acceptable and viable alternative to both Assad and ISIL can emerge.”
He said that to accomplish that goal, President Obama has set out three interrelated aims: to defeat ISIS “rapidly, completely and permanently;” to bring an end to the civil war in Syria; and to ensure that the instability created by the Syrian crisis does not spread beyond its borders.
Shapiro said that “one paradoxically reassuring byproduct of the current regional turmoil” is that it underscored “the strategic importance of the US-Israel relationship – a bond of two allies with common strategic interests who face an array of dangers that threaten us and our partners and allies.”
Shapiro said that the attacks Islamic State carried out against France “was also an attack against the entire free world.” The US, he continued, will do whatever it takes to help France confront ISIL and bring all perpetrators to justice.”
Netanyahu’s office, meanwhile, announced Wednesday that the premier would travel next week to Paris to participate in a UN conference on climate change that is emerging as a show of solidarity with France. Both US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin are scheduled to attend the conference.