Netanyahu Welcomes Syria Cease-fire but Says Peace Deal Must Address Israeli Interests

PM says that while cessation of hostilities is important from human standpoint, peace agreement must include halt to 'Iranian aggression against Israel from Syrian territory.'

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Jan. 3, 2016.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Jan. 3, 2016. AP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel welcomes the cease-fire in Syria but stressed that any resolution to the civil war must address Israel's interests and red lines. 

"We welcome the efforts to reach a long-term, stable and substantive cease-fire in Syria," Netanyahu said at the beginning of a cabinet meeting. "Anything that would put an end to the terrible slaughter there is important first and foremost from the human standpoint. But it's important to make clear that any resolution in Syria must include a halt to the Iranian aggression against Israel from Syrian territory. 

"We won't agree to the transfer of weapons from Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon, and we won't agree to the establishment of a terrorist front against Israel in the Golan," he said. "These are the red lines we have presented from the start, and they will remain our red lines."

A cessation of hostilities in Syria came into effect at midnight on Saturday, under a U.S.-Russian plan which warring sides in the five-year conflict have said they would commit to. Russia's military said Saturday that while Russia will continue airstrikes against ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, to whom the truce does not apply, it was keeping its aircraft on the ground for now "to avoid any possible mistakes."

But on Sunday Syrian insurgents said Russian warplanes attacked six Syrian towns in the western part of Aleppo province. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the airstrikes but said the identity of the jets was not clear.

Last week Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke with Netanyahu by phone and presented the Israeli premier with the details of the cease-fire. The conversation between the two leaders was one of a series of phone calls that Putin made, and was preceded by calls to Syrian President Bashar Assad, Iranian President Hassan Rohani and King Salman of Saudi Arabia.

The conversation was part of the close coordination that their two countries have been carrying out with respect to the entire situation in Syria. In the context of that coordination, an Israeli military delegation secretly visited Moscow recently and met with senior Russian counterparts. The delegation was headed by Brig. Gen. Avi Peled, who heads the international military cooperation department of the Israel Defense Forces. The delegation also included a senior officer from the research department of the Intelligence Corps. Meanwhile, an Israeli Foreign Ministry delegation headed by ministry director-general Dore Gold visited Moscow. The meetings between the Israeli diplomats and officers and their Russian counterparts focused on the situation in Syria.