Israel should not take the Syrian peace overture seriously because Damascus is "more prepared than ever before" to take military action against Israel, Mossad chief Meir Dagan said Monday. "Israel's military deterrence was damaged in the second Lebanon war," Dagan told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. "[Syrian President Bashar] Assad's self-confidence grew. They are prepared to take more risks than in the past."
PM: Israel hesitant on Syria due to US
Analysis: Figuring out intentions of Syrian regime
Playing Syria's game (editorial)
Dagan went on to say that the Syrian army was building up its anti-tank missile units, after having seen that tanks were Israel's Achilles' heel in this summer's war.
He also told the committee that Syria was stocking up on anti-aircraft weaponry in preparation for a possible aerial attack by the IAF.
"Any misstep" could trigger an armed conflict with Syria, stressed Dagan. If Israel were to send a warning signal to Assad - as it did in June when IAF jets buzzed his summer palace while the Syrian leader was in residence - it would be reason enough for Syria to wage war, he said.
Dagan told the committee there was little reason to pay attention to Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem's interview with The Washington Post, in which he expressed Syria's willingness to begin negotiations with Israel with no preconditions.
While Moallem was giving The Washington Post the "peace overture," said Dagan, other senior officials were vehemently telling Arab media that there would be "no chance for peace" without the Golan Heights.
He added that Assad's modus operandi was to "whip out a white rabbit of a peace overture" in order to dispel pressure coming from the US. Dagan summed up by saying that he had no reason to believe that Syria was making any real moves towards peace.
"I don't truly see Syria offering to renew negotiations with Israel," he said. "They have their public comments, but have made no attempt to ask the United Sates and Europe to try to advance the political process."
One of the committee MKs reported that Dagan also said that for Israel to negotiate with Syria would be for it to "stab the United States in the back." A committee spokesman declined to confirm the comment.
During his meeting with the committee, Dagan outlined four other pressing issues that he believed posed "serious threats" to Israel, including the ongoing Palestinian civil unrest; violence in Iraq; infighting between Sunni and Shi'ite groups; and - most pressing - the Iranian nuclear threat.
"Iran is approaching nuclear ability. The Iranian president wants 3000 centrifugal processors in bunkers by March 2007," said Dagan. He added that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was not capable of meeting the deadline, noting that the Mossad believed that such numbers would take Ahmadinejad until the end of 2007.
Dagan explained that if there were "no sanctions on Iran and no technological holdups," Iran would have 25 kilograms of enriched uranium by 2008 and nuclear warheads by 2009-2010.
Moving on to Iraq, Dagan warned there would be a looming threat to the entire Middle East when the United States eventually withdrew its troops from Iraq. Dagan said that Iraq would revert to an Islamic extremist state, which would be "a geopolitical change that will harm Israel." Al-Qaida terrorists, who have taken root in Iraq, have already planned to focus their future attention on Israel, said Dagan.
Addressing the situation in Lebanon after the war, Dagan said that "Hizbullah is still in southern Lebanon, hasn't disarmed, is in agreement with the Lebanese army about its presence in southern Lebanon."
Dagan said that Hizbullah was doing all it could to nullify UN Resolution 1701, and was unabatedly receiving a steady supply of missiles, some of which they have installed north of the Litani River.