President Shimon Peres on Tuesday said that Syrian President Bashar Assad will disappear “one way or another,” and expressed full confidence in the Israeli military’s capacity to overcome any Syrian attack.
Addressing a gathering of foreign ambassadors at his residence in Jerusalem ahead of the Jewish New Year, the president repeated what has been often said by Israeli leaders in recent weeks — that Israel has no stake in the Syrian conflict. Nevertheless, he added, “if Syria attacks us we will overcome them… we have enough of a deterrent, enough strength and defense. We have one of the best security infrastructures and one of the best militaries in the modern world.”
The United States has blasted the Syrian regime for alleged chemical attacks against its own people, and while the US continues to mull military intervention, Damascus has threatened retaliation against the US and any other Western forces involved in such an attack, including Israel, whose leaders have not said anything about joining other military forces in striking Syria.
Addressing the Syrian civil war, which in the past two-and-a-half years has claimed over 100,000 lives, including over 1,000 recently reported killed by chemical weapons, Peres said that “Assad has lost the right to be a leader by killing a hundred thousand people. He caused it. He wasn’t elected properly. [Syria] was never a real democracy but even in a democracy you don’t have the right to kill your own people. Assad will disappear one way or the other.”
Last week, US President Barack Obama seemingly did an about-face when he announced that rather than undertake a swift military strike, he would turn to Congress for approval before using force in Syria. Peres on Tuesday praised the American leader’s caution, saying that “war is a very serious business and I would suggest that every leader think as much as they can before rather than afterwards. I admire President Obama’s attempt to examine every possibility to bring this horrible situation to an end.”
Earlier Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also cautioned those who planned to harm Israel that such an attempt would backfire.
The statement was made amid questions over a possible US strike against Assad’s regime and reports that the Syrian army and the Hezbollah terror group had mobilized their forces.
Alluding to Likud founder Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s iconic essay on the relationship between a Jewish Israel and its neighbors, Netanyahu said that, at the end of the day, “our life here depends on the Iron Wall. We build the Iron Wall, the Iron Dome and our iron will.”
Israel’s will and abilities, he said, “are what give us the strength to defend ourselves… These are the defensive foundations of the State of Israel and the pillar that enables the rest.”
“The reality around us is changing. I want to tell all those who wish to hurt us — it’s not worthwhile,” Netanyahu said at the dedication of a new high-tech park in Beersheba.
“Security is, among other things, preventing the flooding of the Negev with both terrorists and illegal migrants. We have to safeguard our borders,” the prime minister stated.
Israel’s southern Negev region borders Egypt’s Sinai region, where fighting has recently intensified between the army and armed Islamist militias. On Tuesday helicopters killed scores of armed militants in the peninsula.
On Sunday Netanyahu directly addressed the threats facing Israel along its borders, saying the country was “calm and confident. Our citizens know that we are well prepared for any circumstance.”
He added: “The citizens also should be aware that our enemies have very good reason not to test our strength and might. They know why.”