Netanyahu seeks joint U.S., Russia, Iran exit plan from Syria

’All of us agree on the end goal * War will ensure if Jordan Valley not in Israeli hands

June 28, 2019 03:56
3 minute read.
Forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad carry the national flag as they ride on motorcycle

Forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad carry the national flag as they ride on motorcycles in Qusair, Syria after the Syrian army took control from rebel fighters, June 5, 2013. (photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMED AZAKIR)

Israel wants an agreement on an Iranian exit plan from Syria, now that there is a common understanding between the Jewish state, Israel and Russia on that end goal, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday night.

“I am looking for a zone of agreement in Syria – because all of us agree on the end goal of getting Iran out of Syria, [which] is an important starting point,” Netanyahu said.

He spoke in advance of an important week in Israel with regard to the country’s security, in which a trilateral meeting was held between Israeli, Russian and American national security advisers. That encounter came in advance of a meeting to be held this weekend between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump. It is expected that security in the Middle East and Iran will be among their topics of conversation.

At a forum held by the Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom, Netanyahu spoke with the paper’s editor Boaz Bismoth about the meeting.

The very fact that it occurred, Netanyahu said, “is one hell of a change” in Israeli diplomatic relation.

“Israel sat and talked with the US and Russia about how to get Iran out of Syria” he said.

“We will not let Iran entrench itself militarily in Syria.”

The prime minister explained that Israel had an important role to play in Middle East security, adding that if Israel was not here, the region would collapse.

The fact that Israel is here ensures that the region remains pro-Western, pro-American and secure from radical Islamic forces, Netanyahu said.

The prime minister explained that one of the most significant acts Trump has taken is to end US participation in the 2015 Iran deal.

“I will not allow Iran to get nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said.

He also said on Thursday that “loss of Israeli control over the Jordan Valley will lead to war.”

Speaking at a graduation ceremony of Israel Air Force pilots at Hatzerim Air Base, it was his second strong statement this weekend about the security importance of the tract of West Bank territory that stretches between Jerusalem and Jordan. Israel has long claimed that it must retain military control of that area, particularly in light of larger regional threats from Iran.

“Security control over the area west of the Jordan will always be in our hands,” Netanyahu said. “We will never give up our security and we will never relinquish the control to a foreign element. There are those who say that there will be no peace unless we relinquish the Jordan Valley. I say: If we relinquish the Jordan Valley, we will ensure that there will be war.”

Netanyahu made similar comments to US National Security Adviser John Bolton, who visited Israel earlier this week and went on a tour of the Jordan Valley with the prime minister. Bolton assured Netanyahu that he believed the Jordan Valley was a strategic asset to Israel. But when questioned later by The Jerusalem Post, he urged the public to wait for the roll out of the political aspect of the Trump peace plan before commenting on what Israel’s final borders should be.

Trump “recently recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and transferred the US Embassy there,” Netanyahu said. He continued to laud the US president for recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan and imposing harsh sanctions on Israel’s existential enemy, Iran.

“There is no limit in our appreciation and thanks,” he said. Israel, however, “must always be prepared” to defend itself by itself against any threats.

“This is a fundamental principle that guarantees our future,” Netanyahu said.

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