"On the one hand, the Syrian president stresses his country's desire for peace, but on the other hand he voices war threats. We must take both kinds of statements seriously, and emphasize our willingness to reach a peace agreement and make concessions.
"If Assad wants peace, he must go from talks to actions and distance himself from the radical axis. Then he will find partners in Israel who will enter a significant dialogue with him," Peretz said.
The defense minister spoke during a conference of the Jewish Agency's Board of Governors. He also referred to the military possibility: "Already during the war I instructed that the alert level opposite the Syrian front be raised. The main obstacle is Syria joining Iran. We must be ready for all scenarios."
Regarding Iran, Peretz said that it constitutes the worst threat on Israel.
"The radical regime in Iran has placed us as a target for abysmal hatred," the defense minister said. "A regime aspiring to possess weapons for mass destruction must arouse all our defense mechanisms."
"There are those who treat Ahmadinejad as a case of insanity, but we are talking about a radical ideologist who means every word he says. An atom bomb in Iran will cause instability in the Middle East and a serious threat on the region. We must work to boycott him. And don’t be mistaken – the State of Israel will find the way to defend itself."
"If it turns out that the UN and the Security Council are only a paper tiger," Peretz said, "Iran will draw the conclusion. The near future will prove if they pass the test."
'Change in approach toward Qassams'
Turning to local issues, the defense minister referred to the Qassam fire on the southern town of Sderot and the western Negev. According to Peretz, there is a fundamental change in Israel's approach toward the Qassams.
"Several months ago we were looking for the address of each and every missile and for the person behind it. Now we are not looking for the house owner anymore. The moment a missile is fired, IDF forces operate in the area without identifying the house owner," he said.
Minister Peretz also referred to the tensions between the two factions in the Gaza Strip.
"The Gaza Strip is in a difficult situation, and a volatile situation. We are doing everything for the situation not to get out of hand," he said.
"In the Palestinian society there are two contradictory stances. In such a situation, as long as kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit is not released, the diplomatic route appears to be filled with obstacles. Our appeal to the Palestinians is unequivocal. We are not fighting against them, but against terror. We have no plans to conquer Gaza or control it," he concluded.
In another event held later, Peretz said that "a diplomatic initiative is a crucial thing for Israel, and political stagnation is a bad and dangerous thing for Israel."
Peretz spoke during a ceremony for lone soldiers. He added that "if Israel has doesn’t have partners among the Palestinian people, we are forced to initiate and create a new process through the moderate Arab states which also fear escalation or an outbreak which may take place in the entire region," he said.
Hanan Greenberg contributed to the report