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If Only We Had Listened To The Rebbe
y Shai Gefen

Interview with former Director of the Office of the Prime Minister, Yossi Ben-Aharon, an expert on Syria, appointed by the Shamir government to lead the talks with Syria at the conference in Madrid.

Three months have passed since Barak announced the opening of negotiations with Syria. Again there is talk of returning the Golan to the Syrians. What is your opinion of all this?

One cannot define the situation better than it is described in the resolutions the Arab foreign ministers accepted when they convened in Lebanon under the auspices of the Arab League. The purpose of the convention was to express solidarity with Lebanon in the wake of I.D.F. action taken there after the repeated attacks on our soldiers.

Syria prevailed in forcing its opinion on the other foreign ministers gathered there by showing that it must continue to use southern Lebanon and the Hizballah as leverage in order to force us to agree to solve the problem in Lebanon by withdrawing from the Golan Heights. Or perhaps we could be pressured into a more comprehensive accord, as a result of which we would leave both the Golan Heights and southern Lebanon, in exchange for which we would receive a worthless piece of paper.

The foreign ministers of the Arab League made declarations the likes of which we haven’t heard in recent years. Is this Syria’s doing?

Undoubtedly. All the pundits claim that Syria is working to get Israel to withdraw from the Golan Heights before withdrawing from Lebanon, and they say that Syria will not allow any other solution.

Assad’s son, Bashar, is quoted as saying that Barak is too weak to achieve peace. Should we find this encouraging?

This is a well-known tactic in the Arab world, which sadly enough, we do not understand. The buyer continuously attacks the seller until he achieves what he wants in the negotiations, just like one does at the fish market. This is the Middle East market.

Unfortunately, we don’t know how to play their game, and I see how the prime minister submits to them without getting anything in exchange. The prime minister’s office even preferred not to publicize what the Syrian Foreign Minister A-Sharreh said when he appeared before a group of Arab writers in Damascus.

What did he say?

A-Sharreh appeared before a group of journalists in Damascus and made some grave statements showing where Syria is headed. A-Sharreh heaped calumny on Eretz Yisroel. He explained that Syria is firm in its commitment to oppose Israel. However, since Israel has “priorities,” therefore, at this stage, as he put it, we [Syria] have to shift the opposition to other fronts, such as the economic, social, and religious arenas.

In answer to a question from one of the journalists at this meeting, as to the platform of the ruling Baath party, A-Sharreh said explicitly that he was loyal to the party’s platform, which includes a strategy of “conquest in stages,” the first step of which is to return Israel to the lines of June 4th 1967. He also said that he is aware that he cannot destroy Israel militarily at this point, because of its American weapons as well as its nuclear arsenal. However, he will proceed with the strategy of “conquest in stages” towards the destruction of Israel until all of “Palestine” is liberated.

This is what the Israeli government is hiding from the public so too many questions will not be asked, so that its talk of “peace” will be accepted.

Is Assad at all interested in accepting the Golan in exchange for a process designated as “Peace?” As an expert on Syrian intrigues, what do you think?

That’s a major question. Assad wants certain things. He wants the entire Golan Heights. He wants us to leave Lebanon in exchange for something he can present as not being a compromise for Syria, or a concession in regard to any of its principles. He also wants assurance that his country will not be invaded by Israel, economically, socially, or by tourists; and that the Israeli ambassador will be placed in some forsaken part of the country. I think that if he gets what he wants, if all this will be part of his so- called “concessions,” he might well agree to Barak’s proposals.

Did they also discuss Syrian concessions about Chermon, so that Israeli soldiers can keep a lookout from there?

Foreign Minister A-Sharreh stated explicitly that Syria would not agree to any Israeli presence in the “early warning zone,” whether overt or under cover, on Mt. Chermon. A-Sharreh denied everything promised to Netanyahu, and they have already announced that they will not accept any Israeli involvement in anything having to do with the makeup of the Syrian army.

They also went back on their agreement to demilitarize and said that if there would be a demilitarization, it would have to be on both sides of the border. In other words, we would have to strip ourselves of the ability to defend ourselves, all the way until Teveria and Tzfat – never mind the fact that the Syrians will be on the banks of the Kineret or within ten meters of it.

Whoever agrees to these conditions has to have his head examined, since this involves not only a total capitulation and withdrawal, it signals the position of a beaten nation with a morally bankrupt leadership.

You led the negotiations with the Syrians at the conference in Madrid. At that time, were the negotiations handled any better?

What happened then and what is happening today are worlds apart. At that time, we did not agree to discuss borders until they ceased talking about “conquest in stages” and until they stopped educating their schoolchildren to hate Jews and Eretz Yisroel.

You mention hate for the Jewish people. Syrian propaganda is saturated with anti-Semitism. Do you find it reminiscent of Nazi anti-Semitism?

In my opinion it is even worse than the Nazis. To the best of my knowledge, even in Nazi Germany they didn’t teach hatred for Jews in such a comprehensive manner as they do in Syria. Even the third or fourth grade math books in Syria teach hatred for Israel. The following question appears there: If there was a Jewish division of soldiers and you succeeded in killing seven of the seventeen men, how many would remain? Even the Nazi-run schools did not teach math to a child in third grade with examples of killing Jews.

You have monitored Syrian anti-Semitism a great deal. What can you tell us about it?

Indeed, I have kept up on it a great deal. We had, on our part, an intelligence apparatus, which among other things, acquired all Syrian textbooks from first through twelfth grades. What we discovered was frightening. Hatred for Jews is woven throughout their books, in all subjects and at all age levels. Jews are presented as a corrupt nation, and they state it is a sacred duty to purify Palestine of a Jewish presence.

At the conference in Madrid, I presented their school books to them in the original Arabic, and asked them, “Is this what you mean when you ask for peace?” I’d like to add that the Syrian Defense Minister, Mustafa Tzalas, published a book called Matzos Tziyon, in which he relates the entire blood libel that took place in Syria 160 years ago. It claims to prove the story that back then Jews actually killed a Christian for his blood. At the beginning of the book it shows a picture of how two Jews are slaughtering a Christian, with his blood dripping into a pot. I showed this book to the Syrians as well, and asked them whether they are calling for peace while a book like that is sold in Syrian bookstores.

Doesn’t the Israeli government know about this?

All the Prime Ministers, Rabin, Peres, and Netanyahu knew about it, but ignored what was going on in Syria, as though to say Syria loves Jews and has no anti-Semitism or hatred for us.

Furthermore, the Syrians depicted Rabin himself and other heads of state with Nazi symbols. I don’t know what’s happening to us, but I have no explanation for how our leaders’ eyes are blinded. They seem to have lost their minds.

A few weeks ago, Barak said that Shamir also agreed to withdraw from the Golan.

He said that four prime ministers opened the door to withdrawal from the Golan in one form or another. That’s all. Shamir never agreed to withdraw from the Golan, and it’s a shame that a man like Barak is attempting to ride the coattails of men far better than him.

How do you explain the despondency within the nation? There’s a sense of hopelessness here.

I talk to people and circulate in the streets of our country. The wisest of all are the simple people, who say, ‘How did we fall to such a state?’ There’s a very bad feeling among the people I am meeting. This nation has endured so much. Enough blood has been spilled al kiddush Hashem, as our young men fell defending Eretz Yisroel and the Jewish people. We must cry out to Heaven about what’s going on here. Why don’t they listen to what the people have to say?!

People voted for Barak, a man with a military and security background who seemed to know who he would have to deal with. Now he is exposing the Jewish people to danger regarding their very existence!

They say that Assad honors treaties.

Yes, the president of our country said that Assad is a brave man whose word can be relied upon. I’m sorry to have to say it, but our president doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and you can’t take what he says seriously. If you examine Assad’s history, you will see that this high praise doesn’t fit. He broke international treaties with his neighbors numerous times. He is not impressed by the praise heaped upon him by the Israeli Left, including from the prime minister, who doesn’t pass up an opportunity to laud him.

What do you think of the government’s decision about withdrawing the I.D.F. from Lebanon until July?

The prime minister thinks he’s being clever about the Syrians, who are actually using southern Lebanon as leverage to achieve their goals. Barak is trying to turn this around and use it as a threat against the Syrians, so that if they don’t come to an agreement, he will take away their leverage, which is southern Lebanon, by carrying out a unilateral withdrawal. This approach, however, is the ultimate stupidity, because the Syrians are already prepared with the option to continue to attack us, r’l, even if we unilaterally withdraw from Lebanon.

The people in Lebanon are already saying that a unilateral withdrawal will be a blow to peace because it will not provide a solution for the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. Perhaps the Hizballah in Lebanon will stop attacking, but they will reactivate the Palestinian protest groups against the settlements in the north. They will explain that war against the Israeli occupation is legitimate as long as the Israeli government doesn’t allow the refugees to return to their homes in Yaffo, Ramla, and Lud. This would be exactly the same scenario as back in ‘82.

So whatever Barak is trying to achieve with his threats to the Syrians, in the guise of a decision to unilaterally leave Lebanon, is insignificant. On the contrary, they [the Arab League] will continue to undermine us, as demonstrated by the resolutions adopted by the foreign ministers of the Arab League last week.

Barak suggested a target date for leaving Lebanon, apparently based on how much time Clinton has left as president. Are these the actual motives that drive him to initiate these “processes”?

I can authoritatively say that Barak doesn’t understand how the American government operates. He doesn’t realize that all Clinton wants is to be able to demonstrate that he achieved something before he concludes his term in office. As his final achievement, Clinton would love to have Barak, Arafat, Assad, Mubarak, and King Abdullah standing together at the White House. He would make a great show of it and announce the end of the controversy, and all at the expense of the State of Israel. Woe to such an achievement. Barak thinks that the president would give him everything in exchange for that, to the tune of tens of billions of dollars.

What’s the problem with accepting such sums of money?

It is sheer fantasy. First of all, Congress won’t quickly allot such large sums of money. Secondly, it’s all conditional on Syria receiving the same amount. Just imagine Israeli representatives and the Israeli lobby petitioning Congress to give huge amounts of money to the Syrians, who never received such sums before even from the Russians... With his brand of politics, Barak is leading us to a Holocaust that will threaten the Jewish presence in Eretz Yisroel. I say this with full authority.

Didn’t you work on Congress before to make sure they did not agree to place American soldiers in the Golan as part of the peace process.

That’s right. Among other things Clinton promised or led people to believe was his demand that the U.S. be able to send American troops to Chermon and other lookout points in order to ensure the demobilization and arms limits. We explained to Congress that sending American troops to Israel would not only not contribute towards favorable ties between the two countries, but would be detrimental. For if an American soldier would be murdered by terrorists, Americans would oppose the Israelis, rather than the terrorists!

In your opinion, is Barak simultaneously working on withdrawing from Yerushalayim and the Golan?

I’m afraid so. I listened closely to what Defense Minister Efraim Sneh had to say, as well as to Minister Yossi Sarid, and unfortunately to Knesset member Michoel Eitan of the Likud. When you put everything together, you have to conclude that they are talking about giving away the three villages, Torodus, Azaria, and Aram, which cut off Yerushalayim on the east, north, and to some degree in the south, as well.

Aside from this, we know of the intent to implement a plan proposed by Teddy Kolleck to divide Yerushalayim into sections, which in other words means dividing Yerushalayim. When you look at the map, you see that this plan creates an Arab territorial strip from the villages surrounding Yerushalayim until the Temple Mount, from all directions. That will leave only a corridor from the city to the west in the direction down to Tel Aviv, and one other route that turns east in the direction of Yericho and Yam HaMelach. Both sides will be Palestinian-owned. If these plans are implemented, chalila, Yerushalayim will go back to the situation it was in before the Six Day War, a divided city.

Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami says that “let my right hand be forsaken” does not refer to the neighborhoods of Abu-Dis and Azaria.

He is a professor of sociology and history, but he doesn’t understand Jewish history, and he surely doesn’t understand Judaism. Yerushalayim is a metropolitan area that is dependent on the surrounding areas, and needs them to be secure. Without being approachable from all directions, the city will revert to a state of siege, as it was before the Six-Day War.

How do you, a man of the Right, view the crumbling of the Right? Is what Michoel Eitan said just a symptom of what’s happening to the Right?

I long ago resigned from the Likud, after once being a member. I recently wrote an article in which I said that whoever betrays Eretz Yisroel, no matter if he is from the Likud or anything else, cannot be forgiven. Thus, I oppose a plan to put Netanyahu back into the Likud leadership and to allow him to lead the Nationalist coalition.

A decade ago, anyone who spoke about returning the Golan — not to mention dividing Yerushalayim — was considered a far Left extremist. How have we reached the stage we find ourselves in today?

Unfortunately, over the years, the various governments have misled the public by way of the media. They brainwash the public with the subtle message, “It’s a painful price to pay, but it’s worth it, in order to end a hundred year quarrel.” They say it will mean the end of war and the dismantling of the army and real peace. The truth of the matter is that it’s all lies. Sometimes they even admit that things won’t really be that way, but they sell it to the public anyway.

The resolutions of the Arab foreign ministers are resolutions we are familiar with from the ‘50s and ‘60s. It’s the same hatred, and it shows that peace is not around the corner. Despite their frightening talk, our leaders simply do not react.

What can you tell us of your connection with the Lubavitcher Rebbe?

I had the merit to see him personally when I was in Washington after the Six-Day War. Since then I had been to see him a few times. A few of those times it was yom tov sheini shel galuyot on Simchas Torah. I remember that after the war, the Rebbe questioned us about the war, and he displayed an amazing expertise in military strategy, asking us various questions as to how the war was conducted.

When Shamir served as prime minister, we corresponded regularly with the Rebbe. Since I was involved in writing these letters, I had a connection to the Rebbe.

What do you think of the Rebbe’s vision concerning Eretz Yisroel?

If only we listened to him back then. Throughout the years, the Rebbe always saw the situation clearly. He was 100% right about it. We must do what is best for us, but our leadership is lacking the backbone and the brains. If we had listened to the Rebbe, the situation would be far better.



I have no explanation for how our leaders’ eyes are blinded. They seem to have lost their minds.






...This approach, however, is the ultimate stupidity, because the Syrians are already prepared with the option to continue to attack us, r’l, even if we unilaterally withdraw from Lebanon.






Throughout the years, the Rebbe always saw the situation clearly. He was 100% right about it. If we had listened to the Rebbe, the situation would be far better.




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