Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday told the members of Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Israel is interested in direct talks with Syria, but in a situation in which a mediator is required, would rather Paris over Ankara.
"I spoke with Sarkozy, who told me that the Syrian stance is a retreat to the 1967 lines," Netanyahu said, "Sarkozy also mentioned the Turkish mediation that the Syrians propose, I responded to him saying we are interested in direct negotiations, and if we are talking about a mediator – I prefer you."
Netanyahu also addressed the tense times in Israel-Turkey relations, and mentioned Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer's recent visit to Ankara. "His visit led to moderation and closer ties with them."
Ben-Eliezer last weekend expressed hopes of an upcoming meeting between the Turkish prime minister and his Israeli counterpart Netanyahu.
Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting Monday (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
During the committee meeting, Netanyahu also addressed the threat posed on Israel from the northern border. "If in the past we considered Hezbollah as a sideline militia, today Hezbollah is the real Lebanese army," he charged.
"It has replaced the Lebanese army as a significant force; it is arming and organizing as a real army. The Lebanese government and Hezbollah are becoming interwoven in each other – and they will suffer the consequences of any violation against Israel," he added.
Netanyahu also spoke of the controversial decision to freeze construction in West Bank settlements, and said the cabinet's decision was driven by many considerations, including "an attempt to advance negotiations and clarify who is really interested in talks", hinting that the Palestinians do not seek to promote dialogue with Israel.
"There must be coordination between the cabinet's decision and the injunction," he said, adding that in the last year of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's tenure construction was actually frozen and "we are the ones who renewed it.