Avigdor Lieberman
Photo: Dana Koppel
Amir Peretz
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Lieberman: If Syria imposes war, we'll know how to respond
Defense Minister Peretz tells Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, 'Voices of peace coming from Syria must be carefully examined.' MK Yossi Beilin responds, 'I hope negotiations with Syria do not remain a spin, but finally develop into a real diplomatic move'
Israel does not wish to start a war with Syria, but will know how to respond if it is forced to do so, Minister for Strategic Affairs Avigdor Lieberman said Monday at the Knesset.


"We are not looking for war, but if it is imposed on us we will have the answers," Lieberman added.


Defense Minister Amir Peretz told the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that "the voices of peace coming from Damascus must be carefully examined."


According to Peretz, "We must not think that the voices of peace from Syria are an alternative for preparedness and readiness. The IDF must be ready in any event and the voices must be examined carefully."


"Naturally, we are not ignoring the voices of peace. The question of negotiations with Syria is a key question. Syria is a strategic brick. Syria is a significant axis on the fundamentalist axis led by Iran. Syria is a key contributor to Hamas' armament. The Syrian-Lebanese border serves as the axis from which Hamas' armament and strengthening is set in motion. Syria also serves as an umbrella for Hamas' political leadership."


According to Peretz, "The more we talk, the less the chances for a conflict. This is a basic and well-know thing. I think we should take advantage of every possibility for a dialogue with Syria. The Syrians must know of course that we are aiming at all the issues I mentioned: The radical axis and the aid to Hamas and Hizbullah.


In spite of his remarks on possible peace negotiations, Peretz made it clear that the army is continuing to prepare for a conflict.


"The IDF is ready and prepared for any change in the situation in the region. As far as we are concerned, the extent of the forces, as well as the extent of the preparedness and the ability to see everything that is going on, is a move which is completely different from the previous situation.


"The IDF is doing its job. It is investing in reserve soldiers, in training and in preparedness, and is also examining the different scenarios. This is a new situation in terms of the IDF's ability to handle any possible change," the defense minister said.


MK Eitam: Reports on Syria a spin

Knesset Member Effie Eitam (National Religious Party-National Union) referred to reports on Syria's plans to launch a war as a "spin," which he said was aimed at undermining the consensus over Israel holding on to the Golan Heights.


"The Israeli public loves the Golan and understands its importance for Israel's security. There is no need to get excited over the Syrian threat. Syria must know that if it is aggressive toward Israel it will suffer an immediate and harsh blow, with a completely different result than that of the Second Lebanon War," he said.


MK Zvi Hendel (NRP-NU) said, "Those who are causing panic in the government are trying to brainwash the Israelis in any way regarding to urgency of negotiations and the need to uproot the Golan Heights. Otherwise, they say, a war will break out.


"The defense establishment has no such scenario, and the attempts to allegedly present a diplomatic plan only in order to hide the government's pitiable situation are pathetic," he added.


Meretz-Yahad chairman, MK Yossi Beilin, said during the discussion, "I hope negotiations with Syria will not remain a spin published by the media every day, but will finally develop into a real diplomatic move.


"The fact that there are ministers in the government like Peretz, who believe in an agreement but have failed or have not tried to turn it into the government's policy, is frustrating and sad. A government that does not move, both on the Syrian level and on the Palestinian level, is an irresponsible government," Beilin added.


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