Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon acknowledged for the first time Monday that Israel has been providing aid to Syrian rebels fighting President Bashar Assad’s forces. Such support has been offered to protect the Druze population.
Israel has been reluctant to discuss its involvement in the internal Syrian conflict, now stretching over four years. During a briefing with Israel’s diplomatic correspondents at the IDF’s headquarters in Tel Aviv, however, Ya’alon stated that the humanitarian aid the Jewish State has been providing to the rebels has been conditioned on two things: “That they don’t get too close to the border, and that they don’t touch the Druze.”
Ya’alon accused the Druze, who attacked an Israeli ambulance carrying wounded Syrian rebels last week, of acting “irresponsibly.” One person died in the incident, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a “lynching,” an act that would surely draw calls for revenge, Ya’alon said. The fighter who was killed was not affiliated with the al-Qaeda offshoot al-Nusra Front.
Ya’alon committed that Israel would continue to act with sensitivity towards the Druze community. Meanwhile, he said, “the rebels on the other side feel that we’re acting sensitively.”
Jerusalem’s policy on the Druze living in Syria “is very complicated and sensitive,” Ya’alon explained. “Our general policy is that we’re not getting involved in the Syrian war,” he stressed, but there are certain lines Israel would not allow to be crossed.
”We will not tolerate any violation of our sovereignty or even accidental fire from Syria into our territory. We will act immediately to strike at those who plant explosives near the border or fire at us,” he declared.
During the briefing, Ya’alon also touched upon the topics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Iran nuclear deal. Regarding the conflict, Ya’alon reiterated that he did not see a permanent peace arrangement being reached “in our generation”.
He placed the blame for this on the unwillingness of the Palestinian side to make the necessary concessions. Rather than maintaining the status quo, Ya’alon said, both sides should work to find a “modus vivendi” to improve the lives of Palestinians living in the West Bank.
On Iran, Ya’alon said he believed the world was about to sign a “bad deal” with Tehran, “if not this week then in the near future.”
“If this regime is emboldened by the sanctions relief [it is to receive as part of the deal, which will pump billions of dollars into the economy] before the 10-year period is over, then who will guarantee that they won’t try to break out to [reach for a bomb]?” he said.
Israel and the US do not see eye to eye on the matter, he explained. “They see Iran as a part of the solution; we see it as part of the problem.”