Israel: We won’t wait till use of chemical weapons to attack Syria
JERUSALEM – Israeli Vice Premier Silvan Shalom said on Sunday any sign that Syria's grip on its suspected chemical weapons is slipping as it battles an armed uprising, could trigger Israeli military strikes.
Shalom confirmed a media report that Netanyahu had last week convened security chiefs to discuss the civil war in nearby Syria and the state of the country's chemical arsenal.
The meeting, held on Wednesday, had not been publicly announced and was seen as especially unusual as it came while votes were still being counted from Israel's national election the day before, which Netanyahu's party list won narrowly.
Should Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas or rebels battling forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad obtain Syrian chemical weapons, Shalom told Israel's Army Radio, "it would dramatically change the capabilities of those organizations."
Such a development would be "a crossing of all red lines that would require a different approach, including even preventive operations," he said - alluding to military intervention, for which Israeli generals have said plans have been readied.
"The concept, in principle, is that this (chemical weapons transfer) must not happen," Shalom said. "The moment we begin to understand that such a thing is liable to happen, we will have to make decisions."
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would seek a broad and stable coalition to deal with Iran's nuclear ambitions and the possible transfer of Syrian weapons.
"The entire region is raging and we must be prepared, strong, and determined in the face of any possible development," he told his cabinet ahead of its weekly meeting.
"That is why I will strive to form a government as broad and stable as possible, to deal with all the significant security threats facing Israel."
Netanyahu is expected to be formally tasked by President Shimon Peres in the coming days with forming a coalition, after legislative elections last week in which his joint list won most seats in the parliament.
In his remarks, Netanyahu referred to International Holocaust Day, which is marked on Sunday, and accused Iran's leaders of "denying the existence of the Holocaust, while preparing what they think will be the next Holocaust -- destroying the Jewish state."
"They are not stopping their incessant and systematic race to obtain nuclear weapons to reach that end," he said. "We do not take those threats lightly, and will prevent them, this is our first priority as a government and people."
Netanyahu has frequently warned about the danger of Iran's nuclear programme of uranium enrichment, which Israel and much of the West believes hides a weapons drive.
He has refused to rule out the option of unilateral military action if all other ways to halt the programme fail.
Israel is itself widely believed to be the Middle East's only nation with an atomic weapons capability.
The premier on Sunday stressed the need to "look around, at what is happening in Iran and its proxies, what is happening in other arenas with lethal weapons in Syria, which is falling apart."