Yaalon: Israeli intervention in Syria would be counterproductive


WASHINGTON (JTA) — Israel will not intervene in Syria in part because any such intervention would harm the side Israel favors, Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said.

“We don’t intervene, we do not interfere,” Yaalon said Friday in Washington prior to a meeting with his U.S. counterpart, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. “Any Israel intervention might affect the side we support, and not for its benefit.”

It’s not clear what side Israel would favor. Israel has said it backs the American demand that Syrian President Bashar Assad step down, a move that would wound Israel’s most dangerous rival in the region, Iran, as well as Hezbollah, the potent terrorist force in Lebanon.

On the other hand, Israel appreciates the quiet that successive generations of Assads have ensured on its border, and fears the rise of Islamists among rebels in that country.

Yaalon’s remarks come as the Obama administration says it is ready to increase military support for the rebels.

Yaalon said the red lines that would trigger Israeli actions in Syria are cross-border fire and the transfer of chemical and strategic weapons.

Yaalon said the worst possible outcome in Syria would be “a chaotic situation, but we can manage it.”

He called for increased western and U.S. support of Jordan, which has absorbed most of the refugees fleeing bloodshed in Syria.

Yaalon was bluntly dismissive of Obama administration efforts to restart the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, blaming the Palestinian insistence on a settlement freeze before talks start again for the failure of the process.

He also dismissed as “just spin” the recently revived 2002 Arab peace initiative favored by the Obama administration.

Yaalon said U.S.-Israel defense and intelligence cooperation was close and that he believed it was still possible to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapons through peaceful means.

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