Netanyahu Says Israel Won’t Intervene in Syria Unless Fired Upon

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that "Israel won’t intervene in the Syrian civil war as long as the fire is not directed at us." Photographer: Abir Sultan/AFP via Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country won’t get involved in Syria’s civil war unless it comes under fire, after fighting last week spread to their shared frontier.

Syria’s civil war grew closer to Israeli-held territory on June 7 when rebels and forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad battled near the section of the Golan Heights plateau Israel seized from Syria in 1967. The escalation in fighting led Austria to announce it would withdraw its contingent of United Nations peacekeepers from the Golan.

“Israel won’t intervene in the Syrian civil war as long as the fire is not directed at us,” Netanyahu said at the weekly Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, according to an e-mailed statement. “The disintegration of the UN force on the Golan highlights the fact that Israel can’t rely on international security forces.”

Netanyahu said he discussed Syria over the weekend with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has offered to supply troops to replace the Austrians on the UN Disengagement Observer Force formed a year after the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.

Permanent members of the UN Security Council aren’t allowed to participate in UNDOF, according to Martin Nesirky, a spokesman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Russia, one of the five permanent members, has proposed revising the rules governing the UN force to allow its troops to join.

Israel will coordinate with the U.S. and support its position on the Russia offer, an Israeli official said today. He was not authorized to speak on the record.

Palestinian State

Netanyahu told his Cabinet he would discuss the fighting in Syria, as well as efforts to revive peace talks with the Palestinians, with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry when he arrives in Jerusalem this week. The Israeli leader said he would work toward a peace agreement that includes security arrangements for Israel and a demilitarized Palestinian state.

His remark appeared to contradict Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon’s comment last week to the Times of Israel news website that Israel would not support a peace deal that establishes a Palestinian state.

“So that we can meet these challenges and many others facing us, the government must function as a single entity,” Netanyahu said.

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