WASHINGTON - The head of the Syrian Reform Party is expected to arrive in Israel to try and dissuade officials from entering peace negotiations with Syrian President Bashar Assad.
In an interview with Ynet, Farid Ghadry, the exiled opposition leader, confirmed that he would arrive as head of a Reform Party delegation made up of three to five other exiled Syrians, and would appear before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on June 11.
The team plans to warn Israeli officials and the Israeli public not to be tempted by Assad's signals of peace, or by the visit Syrian-American businessman Ibrahim Soliman, who is closely linked to Damascus.
"We believe that we have a different message than what Assad is giving the Israeli public. Peace with Syria is important, but peace with Assad would be a disaster for Israel and for Syria. We have a message of peace, but Israel must be cautious about making peace with a dictator. Real peace is made between two peoples, not with a tyrant," Ghadry said.
Ghadry's upcoming visit will not be his first time in Israel. "I was in Israel on a business trip in 1996. Then, it was a trip that no one knew about. This time it will be a visit of a few days, and will include meetings with Israeli decision makers and research institutes," Ghadry confirmed.
The Syrian refused to specify the names of his delegation members; for fear that they would be pressured into canceling their visit last minute.
In an interview to Ynet two years ago, Ghadry said that while international talks for the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon were being held, Damascus secretly sent dozens of young Palestinians, who were trained by Syrian security forces, into Lebanon in order to fan the flames and disrupt the Lebanese opposition.
In his previous interview Ghadry also addressed peace between Israel and Syria and said that Israel should wait until democracy was established in Syria before signing any agreements.
"One day there will be democracy in Syria, and then, there will come peace, and trade and economic relations between neighbors.
"The Golan Heights could be a place where we all would meet. Something like an Olympic city in which youth from the Arab world and Israel could meet and play Olympic games in a village built for them.
"The Heights should be returned to Syrian control. This is Syrian land, but the Heights can be a symbol of peace and fraternity," Ghadry said.