Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that he would not rule out taking action to secure chemical weapons in Syria in the event of a regime failure amid rapidly declining stability in the Middle Eastern nation.
“Do I seek action? No. Do I preclude action? No,” Netanyahu said in an appearance on Fox News Sunday.
Netanyahu said he does not believe that the current regime led by President Bashar al-Assad is sustainable and the greatest concern is what happens when that regime falls.
“I think the regime will go. I don’t know if it is days or weeks or months, I don’t think it is sustainable,” he said.
Syria reportedly has access to a large cache of chemical weapons and heavy arms that could be seized by terror groups including Hezbollah. Netanyahu’s administration has made clear that Israel is prepared to intervene to prevent weapons from being disseminated for terrorism.
“Can you imagine Hezbollah would have chemical weapons? That would be like al-Qaeda having chemical weapons,” he said. “It is something we will have to act to stop if the need arises. The need might arise if there a regime collapse but not a regime change.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., also warned on Sunday that Israel sees the Syrian chemical weapons as a serious security threat and acknowledged that there is a risk that Assad may use the weapons himself.
"Now there is a risk—I'm not saying it's going to happen—a risk that in his desperation, Bashar Assad might use those chemical weapons, but clearly the Israelis see this as a serious threat,” McCain said on CNN’s State of the Union. “The situation has gone on and on and on, more extremists have come into the fight, the more difficulty there will be after this is over."
McCain also warned that U.S. relations with Israel have suffered in recent years.
"Relations have never been worse,” he said. “It is a lack of trust on the part of the Israelis about what the United States of America will or will not do."
Netanyahu also raised concerns that ongoing international negotiations with Iran over the country's nuclear program have not made enough progress. He told Fox News that he could accept a deal that would leave President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in power, but only if Iran's program is fully dismantled.
He said Israel would be "satisfied with a deal that leaves the regime in power, if you stop the program." But he said so far all of the talks have not been successful.
"Since the previous talks they enriched the material for five nuclear bombs," he said. "They're basically thumbing their nose at the international community," he added.
Alexandra Jaffe contributed