Opposition lawmaker Yair Lapid took 40 ambassadors and diplomats on a tour of Israel’s northern border Thursday where he warned them that if Iran is allowed to gain a military foothold in Syria it could lead to an all-out war.
Lapid, who leads the Yesh Atid party, is also a member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
At the Lebanese border Lapid explained to the envoys the threat to Israel posed by Iran’s Lebanese proxy the Hezbollah terror group which, he said, “has more than 100,000 Hezbollah rockets aimed at Israel, including Tel Aviv and further south.”
“If they don’t get the Iranians out of Syria it could lead to an all out war,” he said.
Israel has been urging the US and Russia to ensure that Iranian forces do not manage to entrench themselves in Syria and Israel has repeatedly warned it will take whatever steps are necessary to make sure Iran cannot do so.
Lapid also stressed Israel’s need to maintain control of the strategic Golan Heights.
“It is absurd to think that Israel will ever withdraw from the Golan Heights and leave the Golan in the hands of a murderer who killed half a million of his people and is threatening the well-being of Israel by cooperating with the Iranians and Hezbollah,” Lapid said, referring to Syrian President Bashar Assad and the casualties caused as his regime fights to end a civil war now in its eighth year.
Israel captured the Golan from Syria during the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed it in 1981, action never recognized by the international community.
On Wednesday, Reuters published an interview with Intelligence Minister Israel Katz in which he said US recognition of Israel’s hold over the Golan Heights was “topping the agenda” in talks with Washington, where the administration has already recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and this month moved its embassy to the city.
Russia and Syria have both provided military assistance to the Assad regime. Israel has recently carried out a series of airstrikes against Iranian interests in Syria, vowing that it will do whatever it takes to keep Iran from digging in on Syrian territory.
Earlier this month Iran fired a volley of dozens of rockets from Syrian territory at Israel. Most fell in Syrian territory, and several were shot down by Israeli missile defense systems. During retaliatory airstrikes against Iranian positions, Israeli jets also blasted Syrian air defense targets which had opened fire at the planes.
Speaking to Hadashot television news Lapid said Thursday he brought the ambassadors to the border so that if there is conflict in the area Israel will not find itself in the same situation as it did on the border with the Gaza Strip where “it won the battle but lost the public relations campaign.”
Dozens of Palestinians were killed last week during clashes on the Israeli-Gazan border.
Many countries appeared to have accepted the Palestinian narrative, which described the so-called March of Return as a largely peaceful protest against Israel that was met with overwhelming, disproportionate lethal force by the Israel Defense Forces.
Israel, on the other hand, argues that the protests were really a military campaign by the Hamas terror group, which regularly calls for the destruction of the Jewish state.
Israeli officials said that Hamas was trying to get mobs of Gazans through the fence, including its own gunmen, potentially to carry out attacks inside Israel, and that the IDF’s primary obligation was to ensure that did not happen.
The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said 64 people were killed as a result of the violence on Monday and Tuesday. Hamas later admitted that at least 50 of those killed were members of the organization.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.