barak - AFP - March 25 2011
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, center left, and Ehud Barak, left, upon Gates’ arrival yesterday. Photo by AFP
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Israeli leaders yesterday reacted to the escalation in the south and the developments in the Arab world. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, in Paris, urged the West to treat Iran and Syria the same as Libya, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in Moscow, called on President Dmitry Medvedev to help stop Iran's nuclearization.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Israel holds Hamas responsible for the recent rocket and mortar strikes from the Gaza Strip.

In a joint press conference with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Barak said Hamas is in power in Gaza and is therefore responsible for the actions of Islamic Jihad and other factions in the Strip.

Barak stressed that Hamas must be held responsible since Israel cannot distinguish between the different sources of rocket fire coming from Gaza. When a rocket falls on a family in Be'er Sheba, for example, it doesn't matter which "gang" fired it, he said.

On an official visit to France, Lieberman said Iran and Syria are a bigger threat than Libya, and that the West should take the same action against them as it has in Libya, Lieberman's office said.

Standing up for principles can't be selective," Lieberman told French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe during an hour-long morning meeting at the Quai d'Orsay.

Lieberman did not explicitly call for military action against Syria and Iran, but said: "I think the same principles, activities the Western world (has taken ) in Libya ... I hope to see those regarding the Iranian regime and the Syrian regime."

Juppe tied the recent developments in Libya to what is happening between Israel and the Palestinians. These developments in the larger region "created hope, as well as and an opportunity to seize in order to make progress toward a solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," he said. French Prime Minister Francois Fillon also spoke out on the subject of Palestinian statehood this week, telling the National Assembly that a Palestinian state should be created this year.

"The peace process must be restarted without delay," he said, adding that "2011 must also be the year of the creation of a Palestinian state."

Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday called on Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to help block Iran's nuclearization. He said in Moscow yesterday that Russia and Israel will face a common threat if "radical Islamist" states acquire nuclear weapons, Russian news agencies reported.

Netanyahu spoke to Russian media bosses before talks with President Dmitry Medvedev.

"There is a now a big risk that radicalization of Islamist regimes will begin in the Middle East," state-run Itar-Tass quoted Netanyahu as saying, according to a translation of his remarks into Russian.

"This risk is dangerous not only for Israel but (also ) for Russia," Netanyahu said.

"But it will be much worse if radical Islamist regimes acquire nuclear weapons. Terror will be aimed against all. That is why the most important thing now is to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons," Netanyahu was quoted as saying.