Israel Seeks Foreign Help to Ease Tension with Syria

Israel has sent messages to Syria via the United States, Russia and Egypt in an effort to ease increased tensions between the two countries.

Foreign Minister David Levy met Wednesday with U.S. Ambassador Martin Indyk and asked him to inform Damascus that Israel wants to restart the long-stalled Israeli-Syrian negotiations.

“The message is that Israel’s face is toward peace,” Levy told Israel Radio. “Israel is ready at any time, with no preconditions, to enter negotiations.”

Levy met with Indyk in an effort to tone down the heated rhetoric emerging from Jerusalem and Damascus during the past week.

Going a step beyond rhetoric, Syria recently test-fired Scud C missiles capable of reaching any target in Israel.

On Tuesday, the Jewish state tested its Arrow 2 anti-missile missile.

While some commentators said it was unlikely that the Arrow test came in response to Syria’s Scud-C testing, they added that both countries have been engaged in a race to develop their weapons technologies.

A Labor Party Knesset member said Wednesday that Israeli intelligence agencies were increasingly concerned that Syria may opt for war in an effort to break the political deadlock.

Hagai Meirom, a former chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said he could not help but link the shift in Damascus’ thinking to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal to meet Syria’s principal demand: a return of the Golan Heights in exchange for peace.

“I have heard recently that all Israeli intelligence elements are very carefully examining Syria,” Meirom said. “What I do not want is another Yom Kippur War,” he added, referring to the 1973 armed conflict in which Egypt and Syria launched surprise attacks on Israel.

Opposition leader and former Prime Minister Shimon Peres said Wednesday that he considered the rhetoric coming out of Syria just that — a flexing of muscles.

But he warned during a tour of the Western Galilee that other Arab states could begin arming themselves with rockets and unconventional weapons.

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