Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should know that if he attacked Israel, the Israelis would not only defeat him, but also topple his regime, Israel’s ultra-right foreign minister warned on Thursday.
“This is the message that should go out to the ruler of Syria from Israel,” Avigdor Lieberman said in remarks at Bar Ilan University, near Tel Aviv, broadcast on Israel Radio.
“Assad should know that if he attacks, he will not only lose the war. Neither he nor his family will remain in power,” said Mr. Lieberman, of the ultra-nationalist Israel Beitenu, the largest coalition partner of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party.
That “correlation” between war and regime had not been made before, said the foreign minister.
“Our message should be that if Assad’s father lost a war but remained in power, the son should know that an attack will cost him his regime.” Mr. Lieberman was reacting to remarks by Mr. Assad on Wednesday, in which he had reportedly charged that Israel was driving the Middle East towards a new war and was “not serious” about wanting peace.
Mr. Netanyahu’s office expressed “regret” at Mr. Assad’s remarks, which it said ran counter to reality.
The prime minister has declared many times that he would be willing to go anywhere to negotiate with Damascus without preconditions, a spokesman told the radio station.
A commentator on Israel Radio said Mr. Lieberman had meant his threat as a “deterrent.”