Israel may help Syrian refugees, says MK Yatom

By Neil Rubin, JTA

WASHINGTON — Israel cannot intervene in the Syrian uprising, but would likely accept refugees from that country, according to Knesset member Danny Yatom. 

“I have to express my empathy to the Syrian people. They suffer a lot. They are slaughtered by their own leadership,” the Labor Party member told journalists and diplomats Thursday in a conference call arranged by The Israel Project.

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However, Israel will not make any moves unless Syrian refugees cross the border with Israel, he said. 

“Israel cannot intervene because immediately it will play into the hands of Bashar al-Assad, who will say, ‘Look, the opposition is backed by Israel.’ This is not true because Israel does not back the opposition,” he said. “Probably once there is an influx of refugees trying to cross the Israeli-Syrian border we will accept them and we will help them.”

As former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s military secretary, Yatom was involved in negotiations with Syria, Jordan and the Palestinians. From 1996-98 he served as head of the Mossad, Israel’s foreign intelligence service.

His comments came in a briefing on Wednesday’s deadly bombing at an airport in Bulgaria, which killed five Israelis, a bus driver and a suicide bomber.

When asked about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s quickly blaming Iran for the attack, Yatom said, “Probably they had and have information that I do not have because now I am a civilian.”

It is logical to assume, he said, that Iran and Hezbollah together, Hezbollah alone or Iran itself is “behind this terror attack, but as long as we do not have any solid information about it, it is better to wait and to draw the conclusion only after gathering all the information.”