Shas leader informs Syrians of his desire to visit Damascus
Syria-Israel, Politics, 12/22/1999
Well-informed sources in Damascus told the London-based al-Hayat daily that the spiritual leader of the Israeli Shas religious movement, Ofadia Youssef, has asserted "the strong desire" to visit Damascus to meet with high-ranking Syrian officials.
The sources stated that the chairman of the Democratic Arab Party, Abdul Wahab al-Darwasheh, who conveyed Yousef's desire the Syrian side, proposed to extend an invitation to him from the chairman of the higher Ifta's council (the Syrian republic's Mufti Sheikh Ahmad Kiftaro) or from the chairman of the Jewish community, Youssef Jajati, in case the government refuses to receive leaders of Israeli political parties.
Al-Darawesheh, who visited Damascus several times when he was a member of the Israeli Knesset, expressed his conviction of the importance of the visit by saying that the Shas party has 17 seats in the Israeli Knesset and backs withdrawal from the Golan and dismantling of the Israeli settlements on the Syrian heights.
He added that Youssef himself backs the position of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who took his decision to withdraw from the Golan, but he faces two obstacles to fulfill the withdrawal: the first in the Knesset's approval of the withdrawal decision and the second in the approval of the Israeli public for such a withdrawal in a general referendum.
Several years ago Youssef said that the Golan "does not form part of the land of Israel." He also said on the eve of the recent Israeli elections, "The Golan is a Syrian territory and will be returned to Syria in any settlement, and we have to admit that and not waste time."
So far Damascus has refused to receive any Israeli leader of a political party. But as of the beginning of 1994 it started to receive the Arab Israelis, and party leaders and Arab members in the Knesset or Arab members of Israeli parties.
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