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Middle East Threats Against Israel Not Waiting for Electyion Results--Netanyahu

January 27th 2013

Missiles on jet

"Anti-Semitism has not been eradicated and the desire to annihilate Israel still exists," Netanyahu said. He noted that Sunday was International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and then made an implicit reference to Iran.

"Holocaust denial is being perpetrated by a major country on the U.N. stage and other stages around the world, all the while preparing what they believe would be another Holocaust: the end of the Jewish state," Netanyahu said. "Jews have the ability to defend themselves and this is underscored by their willingness to act."

According to Haaretz, the prime minister held a special meeting with security officials last week to discuss the ongoing crisis in Syria and its implications for Israel. Of particular concern was the fate of Syria's chemical weapon stockpiles and their potential use by Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations.

Vice Prime Minister and Regional Cooperation Minister Silvan Shalom echoed Netanyahu's comments on Sunday, saying shortly before the cabinet session that Israel had been closely monitoring the situation to prevent the spillover of chemical weapons to "Syrian extremists, or worse, Hezbollah."

"This is highly troubling and very dangerous, and all the free world's countries are in agreement and working together on this issue to prevent such a scenario," Shalom said.

Shalom, who was also interviewed on Army Radio on Sunday, was asked about the Haaretz report, and said the timing of the meeting was not unusual despite the fact that it was held a day after the Israeli elections on Tuesday.

"There have been many classified meetings about Syria before that," he said. He said such meetings are convened as needed.

Asked about the possibility of Lebanon's Hezbollah or rebels battling forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad obtaining Syrian chemical weapons, "it would dramatically change the capabilities of those organizations."

Such a development would be "a crossing of all red lines that would require a different approach, including even preventive operations," he said, alluding to military intervention, for which Israeli generals have said plans have been readied.

"The concept, in principle, is that this [chemical weapons transfer] must not happen," Shalom said. "The moment we begin to understand that such a thing is liable to happen, we will have to make decisions."

Interviewed separately by Army Radio, Homefront Defense Minister Avi Dichter said Syria was "on the verge of collapse."

But asked whether Israel perceived an imminent threat, Dichter said: "No, not yet. I suppose that when things pose a danger to us, the State of Israel will know about it."

Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein said Sunday that "our over-arching strategic goal is to protect the Jewish state against all sorts of lethal weapons. We know that there are countries that are openly preparing arms and talk about destroying Israel."

An Israeli government security adviser told Reuters on Sunday that Syria had taken new prominence in strategic planning "because of the imminence of the threat. There the weapons of mass destruction are ready and could be turned against us at short notice."

Raising the regional stakes, Tehran, among Assad's few allies and itself long the subject of Israeli threats over its nuclear program, said on Saturday it would deem any attack on Syria an attack on Iran.

Israel and NATO countries say Syria has stocks of various chemical warfare agents at four sites. Syria is cagey about whether it has such arms but insists that, if it had, it would keep them secure and use them only to fend off foreign attack.

On Dec. 28 the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth quoted the Deputy IDF Chief of General Staff Maj. Gen. Yair Naveh as saying that weapons developed for a possible strike on Iran could have "usefulness for other confrontations in our vicinity, including in Lebanon and Syria."

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