(September 27, 2018 / Israel Hayom) Israel Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Thursday during a visit to the Israel-Syria border that his only interest is “keeping Israel safe.”
Speaking with reporters near the Quneitra border crossing, he said: “I don’t care about a Palestinian state. I care about the Jewish state, and we have far more acute issues.”
Lieberman said “the fact that Israel’s population includes 20 percent Arabs, who time and again stage protests while waving Palestinian flags and not the Israeli one—that’s a problem for me. That’s an issue that we have to deal with.”
Touching on security tensions on the Israel-Syria border, the defense minister said that Israel has never had any interest in intervening in the Syrian civil war, and stressed that any Israeli actions taken in Syria “seek first and foremost to ensure the safety and security of the Israeli public.”
He added that Israel was ready to reopen the Quneitra crossing, closed in 2014 after Syrian rebels overran it. Syrian forces have recently regained control of the area.
“The fact that UNDOF forces, assisted by the IDF, are patrolling the area again is a sign we a ready to open the crossing,” said Lieberman.
The United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) was first deployed on both sides of the Golan Heights border in 1974 as part of the Separation of Forces Agreement between Israel and Syria after the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Under the agreement, UNDOF is the only force authorized to be in the buffer zone, and its role is to monitor the military presence of both sides near the border.
But the United Nations pulled UNDOF out of the Syrian side of the border in September 2014, after it was determined that the Syrian rebel groups posed a direct threat to the safety.
Lieberman stressed that Israel “remains committed to every article in the 1974 agreement. We check ourselves daily, and we’re in constant contact with UNDOF. I hope here, too, life will soon return to normal.”
He noted the Russian Military Police troops deployed in Syria were patrolling the Quneitra crossing as well in an effort to maintain calm.
Asked whether reopening the crossing serves as an Israeli acknowledgment of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s post-war rule, Lieberman said, “Assad is not our friend. He is a war criminal, but I don’t see all the international groups that are so worried about human-rights violation demanding explanations from Assad.
“That’s none of our business though,” he stressed. “Our only concern is Israel’s security.”