In response to Bashar Assad's statement according to which Syria was keen to resume Middle East peace talks just as soon as it had someone it could deal with on the Israeli side, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon (Yisrael Beiteinu) said the Syrian president was "lying".
"He does not want peace. For peace he would have to offer normalization and openness, and this may result in the collapse of his regime," Ayalon, a former ambassador to Washington, told a cultural forum in Beersheba Saturday.
"Assad does not want to open Syria to the rest of the world because he is a tyrant. He wants to pursue a process that will end his isolation and ease the international community's pressure."
According to Ayalon, Assad must agree to launch peace negotiations "without preconditions".
"You can't wish for peace and at the same time support and arm Hizbullah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad," he added.
Turning his attention to US-Israeli relations, Ayalon said "it is unthinkable that Israel will launch a strike on Iran without coordinating it first with the US. We need the US (in order to attack Iran) on a logistical level and to protect us in the international arena in the aftermath of such an attack."
The deputy FM said Iran's nuclear program has yet to reach the "point of no return" and could still be curbed through diplomatic means.
"Iran is a weak, unstable country. If the international community handles Iran with a firm hand and imposes sanctions, we may not have to strike," he said.
"They (Iranians) won't be able to withstand real sanctions – their banks and shipping companies are vulnerable. They will be faced with the choice of either halting their nuclear armament or collapsing financially."
Ayalon said he also expects the US to consult with Israel on various issues, such as Obama's upcoming speech on America's relations with the Muslim world, which he is scheduled to deliver in Egypt in two weeks' time.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to leave for Washington Saturday night for talks with the US president.