Despite Syrian President Bashar Assad's declaration that his country was ready for a war with Israel, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Wednesday that Syria was merely trying to protect itself in the case it was attacked. "We have no intention whatsoever of attacking Syria," Olmert told the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Wednesday. "The assumption of the state of Israel is that the Syrian preparations are a blueprint for a situation of an attack against it," said Olmert. "But we are also preparing for a situation which contradicts our existing evaluations."
Analysis: Don't underestimate Syria's military
Olmert's remarks followed Syrian Information Minister Mohsen Bilal's statement Monday that Syria would resort to mukawama ("resistance" in Arabic) - a phrase analysts say could mean either a limited terror campaign or full-scale war - if Israel would not cede the Golan Heights peacefully.
Assad on Wednesday called Israel a "fierce enemy," and said that Syria was "working daily to strengthen [its] defenses."
"We always prepare ourselves. Israel is a fierce enemy. We have seen nothing from it but harm," Assad told the Arabic paper Dar Al Hayat. "We do not know whether war will take place, but we should not disregard this possibility."
The Knesset passed legislation in 1981 that effectively made the entire Golan Heights Israeli territory.
Just last week, Syrian-born American business mogul Abe Suleiman met with the FADC, assuring its members that "peace with Syria could be achieved within six months." However, Syrian parliament member George Jabour made sure to clarify that Suleiman had no connection to Syrian leadership and "had zero credibility in the eyes of Syrians."
Olmert also responded on Wednesday to rumors that the US was planning to attack Iran this summer, leading Israel to attack Hizbullah and Syria.
"I have heard these rumorsâ€¦. There is no foundation. These things can lead to a miscalculation where things can happen that we don't intend," said Olmert.
Olmert stressed that the road map peace plan had not changed, telling the committee that steps towards peace were constantly being made. Olmert also said that the United State was considering holding a ten-party summit on Middle East peace.
That group would include the Quartet - the United States, the European Union, Russia and the UN - Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Saudi Arabia.
"There is a feeling that if this meeting will create a momentum that may results in real steps being taken. We are looking for meetings with the Arab League or with the Arab and European Quartet," said Olmert.
During the committee meeting, Olmert also called the list of prisoners presented by the Palestinians for a potential prisoner swap for captured IDF Cpl. Gilad Schalit "disappointing."
"We can't decide that everything goes because our hearts are feeling the sensitivity of the situation," Olmert said. "We need to keep the greater interests of Israel at heart."