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Danon: Israeli Covert Ops in Syria? Baseless

Deputy defense minister says Likud will be tested if Livni succeeds in negotiating a “peace” deal.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 8/25/2013, 8:07 PM

Danny Danon
Danny Danon
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon said Sunday that reports about the presence of Israeli covert operations units in Syria, or Israeli training of rebel units, are unfounded.

"I read about training and support but these are baseless rumors,” he told Arutz Sheva in an in-depth interview. “Israel will not get involved in what happens in Syria. We are following matters with concern, and if our interests are harmed, we will not ask who fired the shots and in which direction, and just as we did in the past, we will act with determination to protect our interests.”

Danon also said he is not concerned about Iranian warnings that if the United States intervenes in Syria, the entire Middle East will “burn.”

“If there is a decision by the U.S. and other powers to act, Israel will know how to protect its interests. I would not recommend to anyone to test our fortitude in a case like that,” he warned.

Danon denied reports of an Israeli “international lobby effort” on behalf of Egyptian Defense Minister Abdel Fatah al-Sisi. This may have been the assessment put forth by an individual person, he said, but – “The official state of Israel is not taking a position except for security matters. This is a troublesome subject because the situation in Sinai is delicate and when there are riots in Cairo, security forces are transferred there from Sinai, and we need to make sure Sinai does not turn into a second Gaza.”

While not overly concerned about external threats, Danon is apparently genuinely worried about internal ones. Namely – Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who is in charge of negotiations with the Palestinian Authority (PA), which are being mediated by Martin Indyk, on behalf of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

"I am very disturbed by the diplomatic subject,” he said. “I look at the diplomatic negotiations team and I ask myself, who represents the interests of the state of Israel in the negotiations? Who represents the national camp? I respect Livni but she does not represent the national camp. She does not represent the settlers and their numerous supporters. I am very concerned by the fact that the team of Martin Indyk, Tzipi Livni and [PA negotiator Saeb] Erekat is leading us to the days of [Ehud] Olmert and the dividing of Jerusalem, to an agreement that speaks of a retreat from most of the territory in Judea and Samaria.”

He was referring to negotiations carried out with the PA when Olmert was prime minister, in which far reaching concessions were offered to the Arabs, who rejected them anyway.

Danon did not deny that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu would be just as responsible as Livni for any concessions that would be made. He stressed, however, that he believes the Likud will block attempts to ratify the deal being negotiated.

"There is no doubt that if negotiations ripen to an agreement by Minister Tzipi Livni and the Israeli government to surrender, the Likud movement will be put to the test, and Likud ministers will have to take a stand and decide if they are loyal to the Likud's path or if they choose to be led by Tzipi Livni, and – in this case – the prime minister. It is my understanding that we are not there and my hope that we will not be there.”