February 4, 2010
Israel's outspoken foreign minister harshly warned Syria Thursday against drawing the Jewish state into another war, saying the Syrian army would be defeated and its regime would collapse in a future conflict.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman also advised Syria to abandon its dreams of recovering the Israeli-held Golan Heights in a speech that ratcheted up simmering political tensions between the two longtime foes and sparked an urgent damage control campaign from the prime minister's office.
Lieberman's exceptionally sharp words followed Syrian President Bashar Assad's accusation on Wednesday that Israel was the one avoiding peace, and the Syrian foreign minister's earlier threat that Israeli cities would be attacked in a future conflict.
The Syrians "have crossed a red line that cannot be ignored," Lieberman said in a speech at Bar-Ilan University, near Tel Aviv.
"Our message must be clear to Assad: 'In the next war, not only will you lose but you and your family will lose power,'" he added.Lieberman heads the ultranationalist Yisrael Beiteinu faction. He has stirred controversy before with statements that Israeli-Arab lawmakers who meet Palestinian militants should be executed and that the president of Egypt could "go to hell." He later apologized for the comment directed at the Egyptian leader.
Lieberman's bellicose language contrasted sharply with a statement Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued late Wednesday, saying Israel seeks peace. It also said Netanyahu "would be willing to go anywhere in the world, and doesn't rule out any assistance by a fair third party, to promote the political process in order to begin peace talks with Syria without any preconditions."
In another statement Thursday, Netanyahu's spokesman Nir Hefetz said the prime minister spoke with Lieberman about the Syria issue.
"The two clarify that the policy of the government is clear: Israel seeks peace and negotiations with Syria without preconditions. Having said that, Israel will continue to act aggressively and persistently to any threat toward it," the statement read.In a third statement, the prime minister's office said Netanyahu will ask his ministers to refrain from speaking out about the Syrian issue.
Syria demands the return of the Golan Heights - the strategic plateau Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war - as the price of any deal.
But Lieberman said there would be no such thing.
"We must make Syria recognize that just as it relinquished its dream of a greater Syria that controls Lebanon ... it will have to relinquish its ultimate demand regarding the Golan Heights," Lieberman said.There was no immediate comment from Syrian officials to Lieberman's remarks.
Several rounds of indirect peace talks between Syria and Israel in 2008 ended without agreement.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned earlier this week that the absence of peacemaking with Syria could result in a regional war.
By Yaakov Katz, Jerusalem Post
February 2, 2010
In the absence of a peace deal with Syria, Israel could find itself at war with its neighbor to the north, Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned on Monday.
Speaking at an annual gathering of top IDF officers, Barak said that it was crucial to open negotiations as soon as possible and to do so while the other side – Syria – perceived Israel as being strong.
The coming year, Barak said, would be one of many challenges but also of opportunities for peace with Syria and the Palestinians.
“In the absence of a deal with Syria we could reach an armed conflict that could develop into a full-fledged war,” he said. “As is in the Middle East, immediately after the war we will sit down and negotiate exactly what we have been talking about for the past 15 years.”Regarding Iran, Barak said that the Islamic Republic was the greatest threat to world order and that, while the United States was planning a new round of tough sanctions, it was doubtful that they would have the desired effect.
“We can’t foresee the effectiveness of the sanctions and the chance of the Americans recruiting the Chinese is also not great in light of the developments in US-Chinese relations in recent days,” he said. “As I have said in the past, all options are on the table, and I mean it.”