PM preaches calm to Syria

In North, Netanyahu says Teheran spreading lies to up tensions.

May 12, 2010 05:34
2 minute read.
Netanyahu visits Northern Command

Netanyahu visits north 311. (photo credit: IDF)


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At a time of increased tension in the North resulting from reports Syria has transferred Scud missiles to Hizbullah, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu chose a live-fire IDF training exercise in the Northern Command to send a calming message to Syria and Lebanon: Israel has no intention of attacking.

“We want security, stability and peace,” Netanyahu said after spending Tuesday morning at the Northern Command hearing briefings from officers and observing part of a large military maneuver currently under way in the North.

“Israel wants peace, and has no intention of attacking its neighbors, as opposed to the false rumors that have been circulated about this matter,” Netanyahu said after watching war games – accompanied by machine-gun fire, mortars and flares – that simulated the IDF taking over a Hizbullah village in southern Lebanon.

Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen Gabi Ashkenazi, who accompanied Netanyahu on the tour, said neither Netanyahu’s tour nor the training exercise was designed to send a message to anyone.

“This is not our first maneuver, nor will it be the last,” he said, adding that Netanyahu did not intend to send any message, except to show appreciation for reserve officers whom he met with at the exercise. He said the prime minister has recently visited the Air Force, Ground Forces Command and Military Intelligence staff.

Concerning Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s proposal to increase Moscow’s involvement in the region, the prime minister said Israel would "give its blessing to any contribution to advance peace, as well as any practical steps taken by our neighbors, including Syria, that lead to calm in the region and the start of a peace process. I have already said that we are prepared to enter into peace talks with Syria, without preconditions, just as we are doing now with the Palestinians. This doesn’t mean that we don’t have problems or disagreement on various issues. But the way to solve them is to get to peace through negotiations – that is our intention both with the Palestinians and the Syrians.”

Netanyahu also decried what he said were Iran’s efforts to provoke tensions between Israel and Syria. He refused, however, to comment on statements made Monday by Security Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon that Israel had the ability to attack Iran if need be.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak also declined to comment on Ya’alon’s comments during an Army Radio interview.

The only thing he was willing to say regarding Iran was that he was not worried the US was on the verge of altering its nearly half-century-old US policy of protecting Israel’s right to maintain its “nuclear ambiguity” policy.

Barak said that he has discussed the issue at length with the US administration, including with US President Barack Obama some 10 days ago in the White House.

“After my discussion with US administration officials – in the defense establishment, in the foreign service and the intelligence community – I can say that their central efforts regarding disarmament are toward Iran and North Korea, especially Iran,” Barak said.

Barak said that Israel would not need to pay for this disarmament, and that he was not concerned that the longstanding understanding between Israel and the US on this matter was in danger.

“We have enough other things to worry about,” he said.

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