Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned Monday that the stalled peace process with Syria could augur ill for the future of the Middle East.
"In the absence of an arrangement with Syria, we are liable to enter a belligerent clash with it that could reach the point of an all-out, regional war," Barak told senior Israel Defense Forces officers on Monday.
"Just like the familiar reality in the Middle East, we will immediately sit down [with Syria] after such a war and negotiate on the exact same issues which we are have been discussing with them for the last 15 years," the defense minister said.
"A political arrangement is not the dream come true of the other side," Barak added. "This will be a choice of no choice. If the other side believes that it is possible to bring down Israel, to wage a battle of attrition against it, or lure it into a honey trap, then it will prefer to do so."
The defense minister has long called for a resumption of peace talks with Damascus, yet his warning of a regional war is significant in that it is uncharacteristically sharp and strident.
Barak said Israel's response to the Goldstone Report, which it submitted to the United Nations on Friday, was "very important."
"UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was very impressed with the presentation given to the UN by the Military Advocate General, and he even said so to me in private," Barak said. "It would be a mistake to establish a commission of inquiry over the Goldstone Report."
"There is no other army in the world that has probing and investigative guidelines like that of the IDF, and whoever would like to can check whether the government instructions to the IDF senior command stands up to norms and to international law," the defense minister said. "I have no doubt that both of these answers are in the affirmative."
As for Iran, Barak said the Islamic republic poses a threat to world peace and that, from Israel's standpoint, all options remain on the table. "The United States is supposed to lead the international drive for sanctions beginning next month," the defense minister said. "The Americans' chances for enlisting the Chinese and others in sanctions are not great given the recent events in China and the U.S."
*UPDATE* Syria Responds To Barak