Instability in Syria may spill over into the Golan Heights, Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned MKs on Monday during a meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
Speaking about potential challenges in the North and South, Barak said, "There could be potential ramifications from Syria in the Golan Heights and indeed in wider territories as a result of [Syrian President Bashar Assad] losing control."
He added that, "In the background lurk Hezbollah, Hamas, Iran, as well as a delegitimization campaign against Israel whose purpose is to isolate and limit Israel’s freedom of action."
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Nevertheless, according to comments Barak made in mid-December at the World Policy Conference in Vienna, Israel would welcome Assad's exit.
"Something is wrong with [the Assad] family, the way they suppress the will of the Syrian people, killing them, slaughtering their own people," Barak said during a speech at the conference. "They are going to disappear, probably in a few weeks ... The falling down of this family is a blessing for the Middle East," he said.
Last month, speaking during a Golani Brigade drill on the Golan Heights, Barak also said Israel is concerned that Hezbollah will capitalize on the unrest in Syria by moving advanced weaponry out of Syria to prevent it from being captured by opposition groups if the Assad regime collapses. He hopes that the Lebanese-Israeli border would remain quiet, Barak added, but nevertheless the Israel Defense Forces were prepared for any development on the Syrian and Lebanese fronts.
The defense minister also spoke on Monday about security challenges coming from the Sinai, warning, "The Sinai could turn into a greenhouse where terrorist groups grow and flourish."
"All of this necessitates preparedness and alertness from the defense establishment," Barak stressed. "These challenges increase the chances that we will see an escalation, and this will continue for a number of years until we have both stability and clarity in our region."
Barak also noted that the ongoing economic crisis was distracting the West from global issues.
"The main focus of [the West's] attention, as mentioned, will turn toward political-economic challenges while the rest of the burning issues will be left to crisis management teams," he said, adding that 2012 will thus bring both challenges and opportunities to Israel.
Commenting on the role of the U.S. in global security issues, the defense minister said the U.S. administration is currently buried in work because of the economic crisis, adding, "This damages the ability and readiness of the U.S. to project power. Despite this, America has been and remains the only superpower."
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