The Prime Minister’s Office on Tuesday denied a claim made in an interview by Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren that Israel favors the rebels over the Assad regime in Syria’s civil war. The PMO said Israel’s policy remains non-intervention in Syria’s internal affairs.
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The statement was issued by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office following an interview Oren gave to The Jerusalem Post, in which he said Israel had “always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran.” This was the case, he said, even if the other “bad guys” were affiliated with Al-Qaida.
“We understand that they are pretty bad guys,” he said in the interview, referring to elements of the Syrian opposition. “Still, the greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut.”
Netanyahu’s office said the remarks by Oren, who is finishing out his term as ambassador, do not represent the premier’s position. “Israel’s policy has not changed, and we are not intervening in internal Syrian affairs,” the statement said.
Netanyahu in recent weeks has instructed his cabinet and official government spokesman several times not to relate in any way to Israel’s preferred outcome of the civil war in Syria. Oren’s remarks deviated from the official position Israel has been maintaining for the past two years; as a result, the interview was quoted extensively in international media as an official announcement of a change in Israeli policy.