PM: 'Talk of war will mislead Syria'

Peretz: Israel should prepare for the next round in Lebanon.

halutz 298 JP (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
halutz 298 JP
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that constant talk of a war with Syria is likely to cause misunderstanding in Damascus. "People do not have to warn us of the Syrian war threat on a daily basis, and on the other hand, to immediately leap forth to negotiate with the country," he commented during Sunday's cabinet meeting. "Every comment of this nature brings forth a feeling that the other side doesn't necessarily understand us in the way we would strive to be understood. We must be more cautious during this time, despite the fact that we are prepared for anything," Army Radio quoted. Last week Syrian President Bashar Assad warned Israel that peace was not the only way to achieve Syrian goals, referring to the territory Israel captured from Syria during the Six-Day-War, the Golan Heights. Defense Minister Amir Peretz suggested the possibility of negotiating with Syria last week when he said that the conflict with Hizbullah may have created a new opportunity for renewed dialogue with Syria on Tuesday afternoon. Speaking at a bar mitzva party, Peretz said that he believed every war generates the possibility to further the greater diplomatic process, and that in this case that could mean conducting negotiations with Lebanon and creating the conditions for negotiations with Syria. Also on Sunday's cabinet meeting, IDF chief of staff, Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz said that the war in Lebanon ended with an Israeli victory, though not a knockout. Among other things, Israel battered the infrastructure of Lebanon's Hizbullah guerrillas, Halutz said. "Tallying up the points, it is definitely a victory, perhaps not a knockout, but in terms of achievements, it is (a victory)," Halutz was quoted as saying by participants in the cabinet meeting. Others consider the outcome of the 34-day war that ended with a cease-fire Monday to be murkier than Halutz suggested. Hizbullah was not crushed and their disarmament appears questionable. Their standing in the Arab world is stronger than it was when the war began, and Iranian and Syrian patrons who supply the group with arms remain committed. What's more, Israel failed to win the release of two soldiers kidnapped by Hizbullah in the opening shot of the war. MK Ran Cohen (Meretz) said in response, "It is a shame that the commander of the army uses such imagery and does not outline the points that lead to this victory by points. Will the kidnapped soldiers return? Were the rocket launchers destroyed?" During the meeting, Defense Minister Amir Peretz said Israel must prepare for the next round in Lebanon. According to Peretz, the Lebanese army should not be allowed to deploy on the border unless it is accompanied by the multinational force. Halutz added that complaints voiced by army reservists would all be looked into. "We have nothing to hide. We will examine ourselves, from myself to the last of the soldiers," he said. Regarding the transfer of control over southern Lebanon to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), the chief of staff commented that it was being carried out "intelligently and gradually." The prime minister added that no new information given during the cabinet meeting regarding the handling of the war. "We were aware of Syria and Iran's contribution to Hizbullah, and knew the extent of their weaponry. In the last few years we chose to focus on other important issues that led to the building of a stronger Israel. The fighting enabled us to uncover Hizbullah's abilities and to change the reality of the past."