The US-Russian understandings on dismantling the Syrian chemical weapons arsenal will be judged solely by the results, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Sunday, articulating Israel\’s cautious the-proof-is-in-the pudding position on the Geneva agreement.
"We hope that the understandings that have been achieved between the US and Russia regarding Syria\’s chemical weapons will show results, and indeed, these understandings will be tested by results – the full destruction of the stocks of chemical weapons that the Syrian regime has used against its own people," he said at the government\’s memorial ceremony at Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem marking the 40th anniversary on the Jewish calendar of the Yom Kippur War.
These were Netanyahu\’s first public comments on the matter, and came just prior to a meeting in Jerusalem with US Secretary of State John Kerry who briefed him in detail on the accord.
Netanyahu linked this agreement with the current diplomatic efforts underway to stop Iran from achieving diplomatic weapons, saying that there, too, the test of the world\’s diplomatic efforts will be whether it stops Iran\’s nuclear armament.
"Here as well, it is not words that will be decisive, but rather actions and results," he said.
In any case, Netanyahu said, "Israel must be prepared and ready to defend itself by itself against any threat. Today, this ability and this willingness are more important than ever."
Netanyahu noted that Israel\’s strategic environment has changed dramatically in the 40 years since the Yom Kippur War, and that since then Israel signed peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan, and was "trying to reach an agreement with the Palestinians."
"That would not have happened without our neighbors\’ knowledge that we could not be defeated on the battlefield," he said. "We are now in a new era, in the middle of a regional earthquake unprecedented since the establishment of the state. We are facing new challenges: missiles, cyber and weapons of mass destruction."
Netanyahu, who flew back from university studies in the US in 1973 to join his IDF unit during the war, quoted from his brother Yoni\’s letter to his parents praising the will and determination of the country in time of crisis.
"Don\’t forget, the strength, the justice and determination are with us, and that is a lot," Netanyahu said, quoting his brother.
The country\’s resilience proved itself then, and is needed every day, including today, he said. "But that is not enough. The responsibility of the leadership is to be wise, not led by illusions or vain hopes. It must see the complete strategic map. It must always be prepared in time. Sometimes it needs to make the difficult choice between bad and worse, and it must ensure the existence of the State of Israel."
Netanyahu said Israel\’s existence was not only based on the country\’s defensive abilities, but also its offensive capabilities and the enemies\’ knowledge that "the price that will be extracted for aggression against us will be too heavy to bear. That is the true base of our deterrence, and in the final analysis it is the true basis of our existence."
Defense Minister Moshe Ya\’alon, who like Netanyahu fought in the Yom Kippur War, also weighed in on the Syria chemical weapons deal and echoed Netanyahu\’s comment that the test of the agreement will be in its implementation. .
"We hope there will be a fulfillment of the intention to dismantle Syria\’s chemical weapons cache," he said.
Ya\’alon also called on the world to show determination vis-à-vis Iran, which he described as an ambitious, violent, and extremist regime that is moving forward with its program to develop nuclear arms and continues to be involved in every conflict in the region through the training, funding and supporting of terrorists.
During the ceremony President Shimon Peres expressed words mixed with sorrow and hope, devoting a large portion of his remarks to Syria, and comparing it negatively to Egypt.
The Yom Kippur war was a turning point in Israel\’s relations with its neighbors, he said, bringing in its wake the peace treaty with Egypt, laying the groundwork for a future peace accord with the Palestinians and also resulting in a peace agreement with Jordan.
"Our neighbors learned that warring with Israel ends in disappointment," he said. "Peace is the true victory."
Then-Egyptian president Anwar Sadat surprised Israel twice, Peres recalled – first when he waged war against Israel, and secondly when he came to Jerusalem to make peace. "The military surprise turned into a political surprise."
Syria, which was Egypt\’s ally in the Yom Kippur War, refused to be a partner to peace, and has been penalized for maintaining this attitude to the present day, said Peres. He said that while Sadat brought peace to his people, Syria\’s President Bashar Assad has brought only tragedy to his country, which is divided and where the blood of its citizens is being spilled like water. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have become hapless refugees, he said, the Syrian economy is in a state of collapse, and the war there continues.
Assad tried to develop a nuclear option and failed, he said. He prepared chemical weapons and used them, and now not only the Americans but also the Russians want to see them dismantled. Peres said Assad now has no alternative other than to honor his obligation to do so, and that US President Barack Obama has repeatedly said that the military option remains on the table, irrespective of the decision not to use it at this time.