JERUSALEM – Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who visited the Syrian capital of Damascus, arrived with a sharp and clear Israeli message that was conveyed at the start of the week by Israeli President Shimon Peres: Israel wants peace, but is not willing to accept Hezbollah’s military buildup.

In the message that is being conveyed by the Russian president, Israel clarified that it had no intention of attacking Syria and was not interested in a regional conflagration. However, Syria must stop the attempts to transfer arms to Hezbollah. Israeli officials are concerned by what has been defined as Syrian President Bashar Assad’s failure to understand the severity with which Israel perceives the situation. “Assad is playing with fire and doesn’t understand that our patience is running out,” said a senior official in Jerusalem. “There are very dangerous arms here that are flowing freely to Lebanon, and Israel cannot accept this.”

On his visit to Moscow for a meeting with the Russian president, Mr. Peres sought to convey a clear message to Mr. Assad. “You can tell him that five prime ministers have agreed to give back the Golan Heights,” Mr. Peres said to Mr. Medvedev, “but we cannot give it back if [missile] batteries from Iran will immediately be stationed there, as happened after we withdrew from Lebanon and Gaza.” Mr. Peres told Mr. Medvedev that Mr. Assad would have to choose whether he was headed for war and missiles or to peace with Israel.

The Israeli message to Syria was also conveyed by Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, who met last night with Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos. The Spanish minister was scheduled to meet Wednesday evening with Mr. Assad and Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem. Political sources said that the Israeli statements to Syria were also conveyed through the U.S. administration, the European Union and senior U.N. officials.

The Russian president held a three-way meeting yesterday in Damascus with Mr. Assad and Hamas Political Bureau Director Khaled Mashal. Mr. Medvedev recommended to Mashal to free Gilad Shalit as soon as possible. The Russian president said that the affair of the kidnapped soldier was hampering the efforts to remove the blockade from the Gaza Strip. Mr. Medvedev warned Mr. Assad that if there was no positive progress in the peace process with Israel, a catastrophe was liable to occur in the Middle East. Mr. Assad, for his part, accused Israel of destroying the efforts for peace. “The expulsion of Palestinians from Jerusalem, the attacks on holy places and the blockade on the Palestinians in Gaza will destroy the peace process and cause its collapse,” the Syrian president said.

Syrian officials emphasized that Mr. Medvedev’s visit to Syria was an “historic visit” by a Russian president for the first time in decades. Yesterday, the two states signed a long series of cooperation agreements. Reports from Damascus stressed the Russian intention to build a military base in the Tartous port and the commitment to provide Syria with missiles and military equipment.

Russia Considering Building Nuclear Reactor In Syria

Meanwhile, Russia is considering helping Syria build a nuclear reactor for producing energy, said yesterday the Russian energy minister, who accompanied Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on his visit to Damascus. This Russian step is liable to be received with displeasure by various Western countries given the unfinished business surrounding the Syrian efforts to build a nuclear reactor for military purposes. According to reports in the foreign media, Israel destroyed from the air a nuclear reactor in northeastern Syria in September 2007. A U.N. investigation into the nature of the site that was attacked has been stymied as a result of Syrian refusal to cooperate.

Russian President Medvedev publicly discussed the possibility of nuclear cooperation with the Syrians. He also urged Washington to work harder to promote peace in the Middle East. “Cooperation on atomic energy might gain new momentum,” said Mr. Medvedev in a joint press conference he held with Syrian President Bashar Assad.


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David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: and A new site,, will be launched very soon.