Dichter hails talks with Damascus

dichter 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
dichter 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
In his first response to the indirect negotiations with Syria, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter on Thursday cautiously welcomed the prospect of peace with Damascus, saying it "could change the reality in the entire area." Speaking at an international conference on 'Challenges to Homeland Security' in Jerusalem, Dichter added that Syria must close the headquarters of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which are located in Damascus. "For 10 years, Syria has hosted the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorist groups. A peace process with Syria is undoubtedly a strategic maneuver that can lead to a different reality in Lebanon, and for the entire area," Dichter said, addressing security chiefs and ministers from nine countries. "[But] the headquarters of Hamas and Islamic Jihad cannot be tolerated by Israel, and cannot accompany peace talks. They must be gotten rid of as a condition for effective talks," he said. Dichter also addressed the Iranian issue, calling on the international community "to harm" the Islamic Republic, and stating: "Today, Iran is pushing regimes like Lebanon to host on its soil terrorist organizations such as Hizbullah, which is the largest terrorist organization in the world. It is a terrorist army. Iran has used and still uses Hizbullah as a proxy to carry out attacks," Dichter said. "The development of nuclear weapons by a state with terrorist thinking is a lethal development." During a subsequent press conference, Dichter said the current round of economic sanctions on Teheran wouldn't significantly impact the Islamic Republic. "The sanctions so far have had a very minor influence," he said. "Israel should not lead this effort. It can certainly help, by providing intelligence." Earlier, Dichter expressed optimism regarding the global war on terror, saying that the second half of the first decade of the new century looks different from the first half. "The terrorist genie can be put back in the bottle. Terrorist groups don't have a real strategy... they attack when they have the opportunity," he said. At one point, Dichter called Miri Firstenberg, a survivor of a March 17, 1954, ambush on an Egged bus travelling from Eilat to Beersheba, to the stage. During that attack at Ma'aleh Akravim (Scorpions Pass) in the northern Negev, terrorists boarded the bus and shot each passenger separately from close range, murdering 11 people and wounding two. Dichter described Firstenberg, a mother and a grandmother, as "the living proof that terror can strike states, but it cannot defeat them."