Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the greatest threat he sees from Syria is that Iran and the Islamic State may use the battle-scarred territory to attack Israel.

Netanyahu, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, said he doubts Israel’s northern neighbor will recover as a unified nation from five years of civil war. Though the two countries have gone to war periodically since Israel’s establishment in 1948, Israel would prefer Syria to remain intact, he said.

Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at Davos
Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at Davos
Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

“I wish it could happen but I’m not sure you can put Humpty Dumpty together again,” Netanyahu told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria in an appearance taped for broadcast before the Davos audience.

Israel, which captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 war, has largely managed to resist being pulled into the chaos across the frontier as Syrian President Bashar Assad has lost control to rebel forces over most of the country.

While he sees Islamic State as a “constant threat,” Netanyahu said he believes it will ultimately be defeated by the many nations allied against it. After losing his battle to sink the international agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear program, Netanyahu said his greatest concern is that Iran will use militias such as Hezbollah to attack Israel from Syria and Lebanon.

While expressing little hope for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Netanyahu said developing ties with other Arab countries first may help. Being remembered as “protector of Israel” would be satisfying enough, he said.

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