War for Israel is unlikely, Liberman predicts

Noting that the IDF was celebrating its 70th birthday on the day he was speaking, Liberman said Israel could overcome any threat and challenge.

Avigdor Liberman (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Avigdor Liberman
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman downplayed the threat of war in a meeting of his Yisrael Beytenu faction on Monday, following reports of Iranian plans for retaliation against Israel for its alleged role in strikes in Syria that killed Iranians.
“I don’t see it being likely that Israel will go to war,” Liberman said, adding that Israel had managed to stay out of the fighting going on in Syria for years.
Noting that the IDF was celebrating its 70th birthday on the day he was speaking, Liberman said Israel could overcome any threat and challenge. He said Israel did not want an escalation but was ready for any eventuality.
“All the headlines, all the hysteria, and all the attempts to sow panic have no place,” Liberman said.
However, two security cabinet ministers issued threats to Israel’s neighbors on Monday.
National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz warned that Israel could kill Syrian President Bashar Assad and topple his government if Iran uses Syrian territory to carry out attacks on Israel.
“Israel has not gotten involved in the [Syrian] civil war so far,” Steinitz told Ynet. “If Syrian President Bashar Assad continues allowing Iran to operate within Syrian territory, Israel will liquidate him and topple his regime. If Assad lets Iran turn Syria into a military base against us, to attack us from Syrian territory, he should know that will be the end of him.”
Education and Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett reacted to Hezbollah’s success in Sunday’s Lebanese elections by saying the election results strengthened what Israel has said in recent years – equating Lebanon to Hezbollah.
“The State of Israel will not differentiate between the sovereign State of Lebanon and Hezbollah, and will view Lebanon as responsible for any action from within its territory,” Bennett said.
Hezbollah and its political allies won just over half the seats in Lebanon’s parliamentary elections, unofficial results showed.
The unofficial tally in the first parliamentary elections in nine years indicated sharp losses for Western-backed Prime Minister Saad Hariri. But he was still set to emerge as the Sunni Muslim leader with the biggest bloc in the 128-seat house, making Hariri the front-runner to form the next government.
Lebanon’s prime minister must be a Sunni in the country’s sectarian power-sharing system. The new government, like the outgoing one, is expected to include all the main parties. Talks over cabinet posts are expected to take time.
“Hariri is going to be further weakened in any kind of government going forward,” said Andrew Tabler of the Washington Institute.
“His ability to substantially tame or restrain Hezbollah... in Lebanon is going to be very limited. It will lead to more criticism of US military aid to the Lebanese Armed Forces [in Washington].”
The election was held under a complex new law that redrew constituency boundaries and changed the electoral system from winner-takes-all to a proportional one. The official results were not declared on Monday morning as expected, and there was no new announcement of when they might be announced.
But initial indications showed the staunchly anti-Hezbollah Lebanese Forces, a Christian party, emerging as a big winner, nearly doubling its lawmakers to at least 15 from eight.
Hezbollah, along with allied groups and individuals, secured at least 67 seats, according to a Reuters calculation based on preliminary results for nearly all the seats obtained from politicians and campaigns and reported in Lebanese media.
Seats in the Lebanese parliament are divided according to a strict sectarian quota. The number of Hezbollah lawmakers was the same or little changed at around 13, but candidates backed by the group or allied to it made significant gains.
Hezbollah and its allies are not on course to win the two-thirds majority that would be required to pass big decisions such as changing the constitution.

Reuters contributed to this report.