Netanyahu. Seeking Peace
Photo: Reuters
Assad. Israel doesn't want peace
Photo: Reuters
Lieberman says Israel will respond to threats
Photo: Yoni Hamenahem

Bibi tells ministers to keep mum on Syria

Netanyahu, Lieberman issue joint statement in bid to allay tensions vis-à-vis Damascus

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has instructed Cabinet Secretary Tzvi Hauser to call all government ministers Thursday and order them to refrain from making any Syria-related remarks.


The move followed heightened tensions vis-à-vis Damascus in recent days.


Earlier Thursday, the prime minister spoke with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman  in the wake of the  latest threats directed by Lieberman at the Syrian regime.


Netanyahu and Lieberman later issued a joint statement, saying "Israel is seeking peace and wants to engage in political negotiations with Syria, without pre-conditions. Nevertheless, Israel will continue to fiercely and firmly respond to any potential threat."


Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ehud Barak also attempted Thursday to allay the growing tensions.


Barak noted that "an arrangement with Syria is Israel's strategic objective. I say to Assad – instead of exchanging verbal insults, let's seat together at the negotiations table."


"Israel is a strong and deterring regional power following the Second Lebanon War and Operation Cast Lead. However, we are not delusional to think that there are no more challenges. We must act determinedly in order to achieve a political settlement," he said.


Barak also implicitly criticized Foreign Minister Lieberman, who recently threatened to topple Assad's regime in the event of a war between the two countries.


"I am not happy with the statements made in the past two days, to say the least," the defense minister said.


Hostile remarks

The flurry of statements followed a series of hostile remarks made on both sides over the past 2 days, which culminated Thursday afternoon when Head of the Syrian parliament's Foreign Relations Committee Suleiman Haddad warned that "any war Israel initiates will not resemble past wars. Israel must understand that it will be the first to be defeated."


"These will be total and destructive wars; escalation will not promote negotiations, but will permanently shut the door to any such talks," he said in an interview with Monte Carlo Radio.


Haddad added: "Syria is completely convinced that Israel does not want peace and is making no effort to secure it. We say to Israel, to the world, to Europe and the US – we are willing to reach peace and security in the entire region if Israel withdraws from concurred Arab lands."


The belligerent back-and-forth between Jerusalem and Damascus began after Defense Minister Ehud Barak declared that without a political arrangement, the two countries will face a confrontation that might lead to war."


On Wednesday, in response to Barak's remarks, Assad accused Israel of “pushing the region towards war”. During a meeting with Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos in Damascus, Assad said that the Jewish State "is not serious about achieving peace”.


Also on Wednesday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said that "Israel knows that if it declares war on Syria, such war will reach its cities as well."


In response, Lieberman on Thursday warned Syrian President Bashar Assad that in the event of war with Israel, "not only will you lose the war, you and your family will no longer be in power."


Roee Nahmias contributed to this report


פרסום ראשון: 02.04.10, 18:12
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