Israel's new cabinet holds first meeting on Syria policy
One of the issues presumably discussed was Israel's red lines regarding the transfer of chemical or other advanced weapons from Syria to Hezbollah.
The diplomatic-security cabinet convened Sunday for four hours to discuss the situation in Syria, the first in-depth discussion by senior ministers about events there since the new government was formed, a senior Israeli official said.
In the weeks since the government was established, the forum has met several times, but those meetings dealt primarily with intelligence surveys and briefings for those ministers lacking diplomatic and security knowledge, like Economics Minister Naftali Bennett, Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan.
The senior official noted that Sunday's meeting dealt less with hearing assessments and more on a discussion of what Israel's policy should be regarding the situation in Syria.
The government must decide whether to formulate a new policy or to ratify the policy of the previous government, he said.
One of the issues presumably discussed were Israel's red lines regarding the transfer of chemical or other advanced weapons from Syria to Hezbollah.
Similarly, the new government must formulate positions on the various groups that constitute the Syrian opposition; the arming of the rebels by Western countries; the "day after" the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad falls, and more.
The meeting took place a few days after an unmanned aerial vehicle was shot down trying to penetrate Israeli air space from Lebanon. Though the drone, apparently launched by the Iran Revolutionary Guards, was intercepted by the Israel Air Force, the incident raised the tension on the already tense border with Lebanon.
Given the disagreements with the U.S. administration in recent days over the issue of the Assad regime's use of chemical weapons, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had asked the ministers not to give interviews or make any public statements on the Syrian issue without coordinating with his bureau.
Nevertheless, Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz spoke about the issue to reporters before Sunday's weekly cabinet meeting. "With or without chemical weapons, the world can't remain silent in the face of what's happening in Syria," Peretz said. "The international community should have actively intervened long ago, with military force if necessary."
"Naturally," he added, "if there is evidence of the use of chemical weapons, we would expect those who have set red lines to also do what's necessary - first and foremost the United States - and of course the entire international community."
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