Ehud Barak. Don't test us
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Benjamin Netanyahu. No partner for peace
Photo :AFP

Barak to Syria: Don't test us – talk to us

Defense minister continues to send mixed messages to Assad, saying 'Syrian president must sit at negotiating table as soon as possible; The time is now'

Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Wednesday told the Conference of Presidents in Jerusalem, "I don't recommend that any neighbor, including Syria, tests us.


"With that being said," he added, "I believe that our interests is to begin negotiations and pursue the peace process."


Barak said that "Syrian President Bashar Saadat (mistake was made in original speech) must sit to the negotiations table as soon as possible. We all know what is in stake; the time is now."


"There is no need to wait ten or 20 years, or for another round of wars," he said.


The last time Barak issued mixed messages vis-à-vis Syria, it led to an escalating round of hostile statements between Damascus and Jerusalem.


Tensions started when the defense minister said during a convention of the IDF's high echelons that in the absence of an agreement, the possibility exists for all-out war with Syria.


In response to Barak, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem warned Israel and said, "Israel knows that if they declare war on Syria, such a war will reach their cities."


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also spoke about renewing negotiations, saying that "the question is whether (Palestinian President) Mahmoud Abbas will follow Saadat's footsteps or whether he will follow those of Arafat.


"If we have a true partner for peace, we could surprise the world and bring peace for our children and grandchildren," Netanyahu said during the conference.


The prime minister harshly criticized the Palestinians' refusal to "get into the tent", as he put it, and claimed that since the beginning of his administration the Palestinians have rejected all of Israel's attempts to commence peace talks.


Netanyahu emphasized that Israel will not give up on proper security arrangements and demilitarization of the zone prior to signing an agreement. "We will demand demilitarization and I cannot foresee the exact length of time we will have to maintain our presence there," he said while stressing that this does not serve as a pre-condition.


The prime minister explained that Israel's problem is not at its border with Gaza or Lebanon, but rather at the border between Syria and Lebanon on the one hand, and the border between Gaza and Egypt on the other.


פרסום ראשון: 02.17.10, 16:51
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