peretz arms raised 298.
(photo credit: AP)
Defense Minister Amir Peretz said Sunday that Israel should explore the possibility of making peace with Syria.
"Israel needs to demonstrate its willingness to make painful concessions if our main interests are [to be] maintained," he said, while stressing that Israel has to be "ready for every scenario of military confrontation" with its neighbor along the northeast border.
Peretz noted that Syrian President Bashar Assad has recently made overtures of peace as well as threats of military confrontation in interviews with the international press.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has dismissed Assad's remarks about peace with Israel and recently declared that he would never give back the Golan Heights.
But Peretz said the government should "consider" each of the Baathist leader's positions. More broadly, he said that Israel needs to be engaging moderate Arab leaders, specifically Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
"Israel should not withdraw its hand from diplomatic efforts," he said. "A stalemate is not on the agenda."
At the same time Peretz, who was speaking to the Jewish Agency's Board of Governors in Jerusalem, stressed the need for the IDF to take stronger action against the Kassam rockets plaguing the parts of Israel that border the Gaza Strip.
In the past, Israel would seek out the party responsible for each rocket before reaction, Peretz said. Now "the IDF will act against all the sources of terrorism without distinguishing between the landlords, so to speak," of the attack.
He also pressed the international community to take seriously Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's threats against Israel, and chastised those groups that have given him a forum for airing his views, which in the past have included Holocaust denial and calls to wipe Israel off the map.
"It is inconceivable that the free world has become an open platform for a person [who] preaches such hate," he said.
Yet he questioned why there should be any conflict between Iran and Israel, noting the countries don't share a border.
"We don't threaten them. We don't negate their right to exist," he said.