The Day In Israel: Thursday Feb 4th, 2010

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Syrian dorktator Bashar Assad has responded to recent statements by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak by stating Israel is pushing the region towards war.

Israel is pushing the Middle East toward a new war, Syrian President Bashar Assad said on Wednesday.

“Israel is not serious about achieving peace since all facts point out that Israel is pushing the region towards war, not peace,” the official Syrian news agency SANA quoted Assad as saying during a meeting with Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos.

Earlier Wednesday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem warned Israel that if war were to break out between Syria and Israel, it would be fought “inside your cities.”

“Israel must stop being the neighborhood bully. Don’t test our determination,” Moallem said during a press conference in Damascus where Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos was also present. “One day you threaten Gaza, the next day you threaten Lebanon, then Iran and now Syria.”

Moallem warned that if a war between Syria and Israel breaks out, it would be “total and take place inside your cities.”

His words were a reaction to a statement by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who said at the Herzliya Conference on Tuesday that if an agreement with Syria was not reached, the two countries might be dragged into a “forceful confrontation that may deteriorate into all-out war.”

“In the reality of the Middle East, we will conclude such a war and then sit and negotiate, talking about the exact issues we have been debating with the Syrians for the past 15 years,” said Barak.

Moallem said Syria “assesses that such a war will break out, we must not rule out such a possibility. I would say it would be a total and expansive war, whether it begins in South Lebanon or in Syria.”

Meanwhile, I may have to bring out the flying pig, because the leftist Ha’aretz has reported the Syrian statements as a threat and Barak’s statements as they were – a call for renewed peace talks.

The defense establishment is pushing for a peace deal with Syria, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is cool to the idea – and Syrian leaders responded Wednesday to Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s call for renewed peace talks by threatening total war.

Two days ago, addressing a group of senior Israeli officers, Barak said it was vital to resume peace talks with Syria because otherwise war was likely to break out. Then, “immediately after such a war, we’ll sit down to negotiate and discuss exactly the same things we’ve been discussing with the Syrians for 15 years already.”

Barak’s statement was not meant to threaten Syria, but to persuade Israelis of the urgency of resuming peace talks. However, based on their response, it is not clear that Syrian leaders interpreted it that way.

Updates (Israel time; most recent at top)



11:18PM: Jon Stewart takes on Hamas’ anti-Semitic cartoons (hat tip: Michael)

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11:05PM: An explosive device was detonated near a Red Cross convoy in the Gaza Strip earlier today.

Hamas’ response is entirely predictable.

A spokesman for the Hamas group which runs the Gaza Strip suggested the blast was caused by an unexploded Israeli shell.

8:10PM: Dork of the day:

8:06PM: Dubai has threatened to issue a warrant for the arrest of the Israeli Prime Minister if it turns out that the Mossad bumped off terrorist Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, will be the first to be wanted for justice as he would have been the one who signed the decision to assassinate [Mahmoud] al Mabhouh in Dubai. We will issue an arrest warrant against him,” Halfan told the U.A.E. site The Natioanl.

The Dubai police chief also said that the method used to kill al Mabhouh, was a ?Mossad method,? but did not elaborate further.

On Wednesday, Dubai’s police chief warned international intelligence agencies from working “behind our back,” saying anyone who did so “should be wary of his own back.

Halfan added that that threat was also applicable “to any intelligence organization around the world, whether Mossad, Hamas or any other agency.”

Meanwhile, it looks like Ha’aretz borrowed someone from the Jerusalem Post to edit this report.

5:56PM: Ice hockey on the Israeli-Lebanon border?

Yeah, why not.

1:12PM: The war of words has continued with Syria, with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman entering the fray.

(Syrian President Bashar) Assad must realize that if he “provokes” Israel  his regime will collapse, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman  said Thursday.

Speaking during a business conference at Bar-Ilan University, Lieberman said, “Whoever thinks (Israeli) territorial concessions will separate Syria from the axis of evil is mistaken. Syria must be made to understand that it has to relinquish its demand (that Israel cede) the Golan Heights.”

On Wednesday Assad accused Israel of “pushing the region towards war”. During a meeting with Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos in Damascus, Assad said that the Jewish state “is not serious about achieving peace”.

Assad spoke just hours after his foreign minister, Walid Moallem, said that “Israel knows that if it declares war on Syria, such a war will reach its cities as well.”

The Syrian minister was responding to remarks made by Defense Minister Ehud Barak earlier this week. Speaking at a forum of senior IDF commanders, Barak said a full-blown war with Syria was possible in case a peace agreement is not reached.

Lieberman said Moallem’s remarks constitute a “blatant threat against Israel,” adding, “(Syria) has crossed a red line; and we cannot ignore this.”

6:05AM: Israeli President Shimon Peres watches Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi embrace Israeli singer Rita.

Peres: I can’t wait to show him how it’s done.

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