Removing Syria from the axis of evil is in Israel's interests, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Saturday in response to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's statement that Damascus 'must stop supporting terror before peace negotiations are launched."
The FM told Austrian newspaper Kleine Zeitung that "we must face reality; until now Syria has served as a haven for Hamas and Islamic Jihad. It supports Hizbullah and the smuggling of arms to south Lebanon. Syria also backs Iran's nuclear program and is only strengthening its ties with Tehran. Therefore, I cannot view Syria as a genuine partner in any agreement."
Barak, who was reportedly outraged over Lieberman's comments, has said in closed meetings recently that Israel must look for a way to resume talks with Syria without hindering the negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.
Barak and Lieberman are both members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's inner security cabinet.
The defense minister, whose position is based on IDF Intelligence assessments, believes Syrian President Bashar Assad would also benefit from a peace deal with Israel.
"Negotiations with Syria must include the demand to dismantle the terror groups' headquarters in Damascus and uphold Israel's security-related interests; these negotiations are vital to preserving Israel's interests in the current reality in the Middle East," Barak stated.
According to the defense minister, the US administration is also exploring the possibility of strengthening the West's ties with Syria.