NSC Chief: Syrian Bid for Talks With Israel Is Genuine

National Security Council (NSC) Chairman Ilan Mizrahi told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee yesterday that "Syria's call for dialogue with Israel is authentic."

Mizrahi, however, said it's hard to tell if Syria is interested in peace, or just a peace process.

He said Syrian President Bashar Assad believes the strengthening of ties with Iran and Hezbollah has borne fruit, and that Syria is "being sought after by the international community and has emerged from the isolation."

The NSC chairman added that Middle Eastern states' acquisition of civilian nuclear reactors could lead to nuclear weapons programs.

Mizrahi, a former deputy Mossad chief, said the Iranian nuclear weapons program has led other Middle Eastern countries to seek civilian reactors. "There is certainly concern that those who talk about civilian nuclear capabilities are thinking about future military capabilities," he said.

Those countries selling the reactors must ensure that the nuclear programs do not become military in nature, he said.

Mizrahi stressed that the main question on the Iranian nuclear is not when the country acquires the bomb, but when it reaches the point of no return, at which time it will have the ability to produce a nuclear weapon. "Once they have the ability, the rest is technical," he said.

The NSC chairman briefed the committee on Islamic extremism, saying Al-Qaida is establishing itself in Lebanon - among other reasons, to play a role in a potential power struggle in the country. At the same time, the organization is active in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula and is trying to gain a foothold in Jordan, Mizrahi said.