Israeli Defense Chief Looks to Deal with Syria to Defuse Intifada, Iranian Threats
Israeli Defense Minister Ben-Eliezer believes an agreement with Syria would have the added benefits of relieving the pressure in the confrontation with the Palestinians and the future threat of Iran as a nuclear power, sources told Haaretz newspaper on Tuesday.
Israeli reports had said that Ben-Eliezer visited Jordan secretly two weeks ago, telling the Jordanian monarch that the Jewish state wanted to resume negotiations with Damascus, halted in December 1999.
He said during a visit to Turkey last month that he was concerned about Iran's potential ability to achieve - by the year 2005 - the capacity to fire accurate missiles with nuclear warheads to hit Israeli targets.
Israel, he believes, must act to thwart hostile states from arming themselves with nuclear weapons, the sources told Haaretz.
There has still not been a response from Damascus on the Israeli offer, said the paper.
According to Haaretz sources in Jordan, Syrian President Bashar Assad's silence can be linked to the “negative influence of the Syrian regime's old guard, headed by Defense Minister Mustafa Tlass.”
Another cardinal reason for the lack of response, they told the paper, is that the Arab states attach importance mainly to the positions of the Israeli prime minister and give little weight to those of others, including senior ministers and opposition leaders.
Syria has not only showed a marked lack of enthusiasm about such ideas, but has also been on guard for an Israeli offensive at any moment.
Assad, in a message to the armed forces to mark the army's 56th anniversary on August 1, called on the army to be in a state of “heightened alert" to face Israeli threats.
"Our region is currently going through a very rough patch which requires the highest level of vigilance and preparation."
"The Zionist enemy is pursuing its aggressive and expansionist plan, and its threats continue," Assad’s message said.
“The Zionist enemy is continuing with its aggressive policies which threat the peace process,” he added.
Israel has repeatedly threatened Syria with attacks if it does not stop its support for the Lebanese Hizbollah resistance movement.
Israel has already attacked Syrian radar stations in Lebanon twice since April.
Hizbollah forces have repeatedly attacked Israeli troops occupying the Shabaa Farms area, which Lebanon and Syria both say should have been included in the Israeli withdrawal from south Lebanon in May 2000 – Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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