(JNS.org) The White House responded to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s opposition to the cease-fire in southern Syria brokered by the U.S. and Russia, saying America shares Israel’s concerns over Iran’s presence in Syria.
“Both governments—the United States and Israel—are rightly concerned about Iran’s malign influence in the region,” a White House official told The Jerusalem Post. “A core goal of U.S. policy in Syria is to ensure that no vacuum is created which Iran can fill.”
After initially cautiously welcoming the cease-fire, Netanyahu told reporters during his visit to France Sunday that the Syria deal brokered by the U.S. and Russia perpetuates the presence of Iranian forces near Israel—a concern the prime minister has repeatedly voiced in recent months.
President Donald Trump has touted the cease-fire agreement as a tangible foreign policy achievement resulting from his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 Summit in Germany earlier this month.
“We negotiated a cease-fire in parts of Syria which will save lives. Now it is time to move forward in working constructively with Russia!” Trump tweeted after meeting with Putin.
Critics, however, contend that Russia and Iran may be using the cease-fire to consolidate their gains and launch new offensives. Haaretz, citing a senior Israeli official, reported Sunday that Israel is aware of Iranian plans to not only send military advisers to Syria, but also to build up forces there through the establishment of a permanent air and naval bases.
At the same time, it is unclear how long the current cease-fire will last. Previous cease-fires negotiated with Russia during the Obama administration’s tenure failed to halt the violence in Syria.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday that the U.S. and Russia will ensure Israel’s interests are taken into account during future talks on creating safe zones in southern Syria.