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Defense Minister says Assad Must Go

Moshe Yaalon says the lack of a moderate alternative, has prevented Israel from openly pressing for regime change in Syria.
By Adam Ross
First Publish: 9/27/2013, 11:03 AM

Yaalon and Assad
Yaalon and Assad
Flash 90

Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, has said openly for the first time that Syrian president Bashar Assad must be forced to leave power.

The Maariv newspaper published excerpts from a speech Yaalon made at the start of this week to the Israel Allies Foundation, at an event co-sponsored by the World Jewish Congress and the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem (ICEJ).

The ICEJ has just finished its annual Tabernacles Festival bringing some 5,000 Christian supporters to the capital for a five day long event in support of Israel.

Yaalon says the agreement to dispose of Assad's chemical weapons stock, was only the first stage before his eventual removal from power. 

"Assad needs to leave power, either through diplomacy or other means," Yaalon says. "First the chemical weapons should be neutralized, and afterwards there should a be a process to end the Assad rule," the Defense Minister told the pro-Israel gathering on Sunday.

The Defense Minister claimed that all of the major international players who had been entangled in the recent Syria crisis had an interest in seeing Assad removed from power.

Last month, Yaalon praised the U.S.-Russian deal for Syria to destroy its chemical weapons saying that it proved that a credible threat of force could bring about diplomatic solutions to global threats.

According to Yaalon's recent speech, parts of which have also been published by Israeli newspaper Makor Rishon,  he also addressed why Israel had not yet been vocal about removing Assad from power.

"We do not yet see a moderate, trustworthy, responsible, replacement for Assad," adding, "most of Syria is controlled by Sunni Muslims, but the bad news is that the Sunnis are split. There are those like the Muslim Brotherhood, that we don’t want to see ruling Syria, and there are those fighting for Islamic jihad, such as Jabhat al Nusra and elements of Al Qaeda.  Another third of territory is under Kurdish autonomy," the Defense Minister said.

Yaalon added: "It's not something that can happen in one day, but a person who uses chemical weapons against civilians, who kills over 100,000 of his people, who has carried out war crimes, cannot be allowed to a part of the free world.  In the long term this is in the long term interests of the US, Russia, Jordan and Israel to bring a replace the regime in Syria with a modern moderate rule of power."

Yaalon also said that Islamic fundamentalists from a wide range of nationalities had converged on Syria to help topple Assad, comprising Muslims from Iraq, America, Europe, Australia, and the wider Middle East including Arab Israelis.