Netanyahu opposes Syrian cease-fire, fearing Iranian military expansion


(JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he opposes the cease-fire brokered by the United States and Russia in southwest Syria, near the border with northern Israel’s Golan Heights.

On Sunday, Netanyahu told reporters in France following a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron that the cease-fire that went into effect last week will allow Iran to expand its presence in Syria close to the Israeli border.

The cease-fire was announced earlier this month following a meeting between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G-20 conference in Hamburg, Germany.

Netanyahu said a week after the cease-fire went into effect that the agreement will not keep Iran from establishing a military presence in Syria, including an air base and naval base.

The Israeli leader said he told Macron that he opposes the cease-fire, and reportedly also expressed his opposition on Sunday evening in a phone call with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

In comments made the day the cease-fire went into effect, Netanyahu said that Israel “will welcome a genuine cease-fire in Syria, but this cease-fire must not enable the establishment of a military presence by Iran and its proxies in Syria in general and in southern Syria in particular.”

He also said he “had deep discussions” about the cease-fire a week earlier with Tillerson and Putin.

“Both told me that they understand Israel’s position and will take our demands into account,” Netanyahu said.

He called the establishment of an Iranian military presence in Syria a red line that Israel will uphold.

On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters outside a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Collective Security Treaty Organization that Israel’s security concerns were taken into account while brokering the cease-fire.

“I can guarantee that the American side and we did the best we can to make sure that Israel’s security interests are fully taken into consideration,” he said.

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