TEL AVIV – A Russian proposal to keep Iranian forces in Syria 100 kilometers (62 miles) away from Israel’s northern border has been rejected by Jerusalem since Iran’s long-range weapons can circumvent the buffer, a senior Israeli official said following a meeting between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israel is maintaining its demand that Iran be prevented from becoming entrenched militarily in Syria, the official said, and added that Moscow’s plan to create a buffer “does not satisfy us even in the first phase, because they [Iran] have weapons [in Syria] that go beyond that range.”
He added that Israel has demanded that all Iranian factories producing precision-guided missiles in Syria be shuttered and its air defenses removed.
Israel also wants Syria to close its border with Lebanon in order to prevent the transfer of weapons there. In addition,the embattled country would be required to close its border with Iraq to prevent Shiite militias and weapons from being smuggled in from Iran.
“Iran wants to turn Syria into another Lebanon,” the official said. “We will not let that happen and will not wait until they are entrenched. We are already willing to pay the price for this.”
“This was a very important meeting at a significant time, during which we delved into many details, produced maps and shared intelligence, and explained in great detail our policy,” the senior official told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
At the meeting, Netanyahu emphasized the significance of the ties between Moscow and Jerusalem.
“The link between us is extraordinarily important and it exists, as you have seen, in the direct meetings between myself and President [Vladimir] Putin and between our staffs,” Netanyahu said at the beginning of the meeting.
He expressed his appreciation for the comments about Israel’s security needs made by Putin and President Donald Trump at their Helsinki summit last week.
Also on Monday, Netanyahu began his weekly cabinet meeting by praising Trump for his position against the “aggression of the Iranian regime.”
The comment follows a tweet by Trump threatening Iran.
To Iranian President Rouhani: NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE. WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 23, 2018
Netanyahu also reiterated his promise that “Israel will continue to act against any attempt by Iran and its proxies to establish a military presence in Syria.”