Text size

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday blamed Iran for trying to drag Israel and Syria into a military confrontation. During a meeting with reservist officers at a Northern Command training base, Netanyahu said that "Iran is trying to stir up war between Israel and Syria in order to cause tension in the region."

The prime minister added that Israel has no wish or intention to embark on a war. "[Iran's claims] are baseless lies that are spread in order to cause tension," he said. "We want stability and peace. Israel wants peace and we have no intention of attacking our neighbors, contrary to those false rumors."

See analysisPage 3

Netanyahu was visiting Northern Command headquarters in Safed, where he was briefed on an extensive exercise by reservist forces, underway in recent days, which simulates war with Hezbollah in Lebanon. The prime minister watched part of the exercise, which involved taking over a built-up area in southern Lebanon with fortified Hezbollah positions from which rockets were fired at Israel.

Netanyahu was asked during the visit about the possibility of negotiations with Syria being restarted following Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's visit to Damascus. "We will welcome any contribution to the advancement of the peace process, and every practical step that our neighbors will take for calm in the region and entering a political process, including from Syria," Netanyahu said."

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman attacked Syria during his meeting yesterday in Tokyo with Japan's Prime Minister, Yukio Hatoyama.

"Military cooperation between Syria and North Korea endangers stability in southeast Asia and the Middle East, and contravenes all norms and acceptable rules in the international arena," Lieberman said. "This cooperation is focused on weapons of mass destruction and illegal smuggling, as we saw only a few months ago when a North Korean aircraft was held in Bangkok, loaded with arms for Hamas and Hezbollah."

Meanwhile, former prime minister Ehud Olmert warned last night that without negotiations with Syria, which were broken off toward the end of his tenure in office, Israel is likely to face a deteriorating security situation with Syria "in the near future."