Exiled Syrian Opposition Leader to Visit Knesset Next Month

Farid Ghadry of the Syrian Reform Party to be second Syrian expatriate to address Knesset this year.

Syrian exile and opposition leader Farid Ghadry, of the Syrian Reform Party, is expected to visit the Knesset. He was invited by MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud), former chair of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

Ghadry, who is expected to speak before the committee on June 11, will be the second Syrian expatriate to address it this year. Last month, the committee heard Syrian-American businessman Ibrahim Suleiman. He discussed his contacts with Alon Liel, former Foreign Ministry director general, on a proposed peace deal.

Unlike Suleiman, who is rumored to be in contact with Syrian President Bashar Assad, 51-year-old Ghadry is the founder of a political movement aimed at bringing down Assad's regime. The Syrian Reform Party, founded in exile in the U.S. in 2003, aspires to replace Assad's Alawi minority rule with a democratic system that puts power in the hands of the Sunni majority.

After he founded the movement, Ghadry appeared on Al-Jazeera, where he called on the United States to invade Syria, as it did in Iraq.

During the intifada, he demonstrated outside the Syrian embassy in Washington along with pro-Israeli activists from the American Jewish Committee. They demanded Syria pull leave Lebanon and halt support for Palestinian terror and Hezbollah.

The committee invited Ghadry under the policy adopted by chair Tzachi Hanegbi, who advocated opening the floor to prominent Arab figures.

Left-wing political figures told Haaretz that they thought Ghadry's invitation was a right-wing attempt to contradict Suleiman's statements that Assad sincerely wanted to negotiate with Israel. "He will say that Assad is a corrupt terrorist with whom there is no point negotiating," they said.