Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel is not taking sides in the Syrian civil war but it “will act if necessary to prevent game-changing weapons from being transferred to Hezbollah”.
Speaking at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said: “we are closely monitoring the developments and changes there and we are prepared for any scenario. The government of Israel is working responsibly and with determination and sagacity, in order to ensure the supreme interest of the State of Israel – the security of Israeli citizens in keeping with the policy that we have set, to – as much as possible – prevent the transfer of advanced weapons to Hezbollah and to other terrorist elements. We will work to ensure Israel’s security interest in the future as well.”
Earlier, a report in the daily Times in London quoted a senior Israeli intelligence officer as saying Israel preferred the devil it knows to “the demons we can only imagine.” Better the devil we know than the demons we can only imagine if Syria falls into chaos, and the extremists from across the Arab world gain a foothold there.”
According to the Times, the senior officer in the north of Israel said a weakened but stable Syria under Assad is not only better for Israel but for the region as a whole.
Netanyahu said during a meeting of Likud ministers that those comments “do not reflect the government’s position”.
He stressed that Israel is not intervening in the Syrian civil war and is not taking a position concerning who should rule the country.
Asked about the British newspaper report, a spokesperson for the Israeli army, Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, declared:”since I’m well aware of the Military Intelligence stance on Syrian events I find the quote unreliable, even false.”
“I’ve learned quite a bit about the calculated ways in which one can make use of such quotations for various purposes” Mordechai said in a statement. “In the IDF we continue to monitor and prepare for all scenarios, along the northern as well as other frontiers, which doesn’t leave us with much time for speculation.”
Netanyahu has consistently taken pains to pointedly stay out of the Syrian conflict, while at the same time making clear that Israel would act if it detected that either state-of-the-art or chemical weapons were being moved to Hezbollah.
In an interview with the BBC in April, the Prime Minister said “We don’t seek military confrontation, but we are prepared to defend ourselves if the need arises, and I think people know that what I say is both measured and serious” Netanyahu said during that interview that the situation in Syria was complicated because “you have the bad fighting the bad”.