Exclusive Interviews

June 29th 1978
Exclusive interview with Itzchak Rabin in Israel.
“Rabin defends his formula for Peace”
Folha da Tarde

In the interview, Israeli General and former Prime Minister Itzchak Rabin says Israel cannot return to pre-1967 borders. He says Palestinians should be included in peace negotiations, but not the PLO. According to him, it would be inconceivable to admit a government with Arafat. The Palestinians should be represented by those who live in the territories occupied by Israel in 1967, as delegated representatives with administrative autonomy, while Israeli forces would need to remain along the Jordan river in order to secure Israel’s security, but not interfering in the Palestinians internal administration. Jerusalem, however, should remain as part of Israel, without any negotiation about Israeli sovereignty in the city.

When asked about the recent visit by Anwar Sadat to Israel, Rabin says that it has a positive aspect, because any war in the region would depend on Egypt’s position. He also says Sadat had not yet made any concessions to Israel, but he had managed to increase the USA’s pressure on Israel.

He says Israel spends 26% of its gross income with weapons, which is a very high rate comparing to other countries. He says that the State of Israel offered very good social conditions to its citizens, as a retribution for a continued state of war.
Ben Abraham made comments about his admiration for Itzchak Rabin and for his views on peace and social welfare.

Jan 22nd 1979
Exclusive Interview with Israeli vice-Minister of Defense, General Mordechai Zipori
“Israel: a ‘pillar’ in the Middle East”
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The article starts mentioning a cycle of violence and reprisals, started by a terrorist attack in a market in Jerusalem.

The interview with General Mordechai Zipori centers on Anwar Sadat’s “intransigence” over the Camp David Agreements. According to Zipori, Israel would not make any concessions related to: 1) allowing mutual help in case of war against other Arab states; 2) establishing a date for withdrawal from Gaza and the West Bank, since this would create a leftist state directed by Arafat and Habash.

General Zipori also said it was impossible to return to pre-1967 borders, since this move would put Israel’s existence under threat. Therefore, the Palestinians could be given certain autonomy while the Israeli army would remain along the Jordan and the Jewish colonies in the West Back would not be removed.

Zipori did not show any concern about the fact that Iran had cut exports of oil to Israel, since the USA had agreed to supply Israel with oil in 1973.

Ben Abraham then closes the article with comments about the importance of Israel as an ally of the United States, primarily because of its capacity to be a “pillar” against Russian penetration in the region, along with Sadat’s Egypt.

April 6th 1979
Exclusive Interview with Itchzak Rabin in Sao Paulo
“Rabin explains the Peace Treaty in his second exclusive interview to the FT
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The main topic of this interview was the recently signed peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. Rabin said that, in case peace lasted between Egypt and Israel, there were going to be no wars between Israel and the Arab countries. His only restriction was that he did not know what could happen to “the leaders that signed the treaty”. Also, he said, nobody could guarantee if future Egyptian leaders would respect the treaty, which was not Israel’s case.

Rabin said he believed other Arab countries could follow Egypt’s example and sign peace treaties with Israel. He also said that within 5 or 7 years the Palestinians would have autonomy in Gaza, Judea and Samaria, so that the Palestinian issue would be solved. However, he defined the PLO as a “gang of murderers”, with whom “any negotiation is out of question. We will only negotiate with the Arabs living in Gaza, Judea and Samaria”.

He said the Egyptian economy was at the point of failure, but since they were going to receive economic aid from USA, the boycott by other Arab states would not have significant impact on Egypt.

May 21st 1979
Exclusive Interview with Sholomo Gazit, former chief of the Israeli secret service
“Israel: everything is negotiable, except security”
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The article gives the background of the interviewee and describes how a quick career can be developed in the IDF.

According to Gazit, Israeli intelligence cannot be compared to other countries’ because Israel lives in constant state of war. The primary goal of the Israeli intelligence is to collect data and to predict any action that might be taken by Israel’s enemies. These data must be absolutely accurate.

Gazit said in the interview that peace negotiations with the PLO were not a possibility. On the other hand, the future of the Golan Heights could be negotiated with Syria.

He finished the interview by affirming that Begin had demonstrated good will by giving everything back to Egypt. Israel could negotiate everything, except Jerusalem and the country’s security.

Aug 18th 1979
Exclusive Interview with Ben Elissar, vice-chief director of the Israeli PM’s cabinet and first Israeli ambassador in Egypt in Sao Paulo
Ben Elissar: ‘I believe in the people of Israel’
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Belissar says it is still early to believe that Sadat will maintain peace with Israel. According to him, permanent peace with the Arab nations is still uncertain, at least until those countries recognize Israel’s existence. When asked if Israel might one day break the peace treaty with Egypt, he said Israel gave them oil fields found and equipped in Sinai, as well as rural colonies where Israeli settlers had made the desert flourish. So Israel had made sacrifices for achieving peace with Egypt, without knowing if those would be worthy.

In relation to the possibility of a new war, Gait said both Syria and Iraq still had the objective of wiping Israel off the map. Finally, he said there was not any chance Israel could negotiate with the PLO, which he described as an organization of murderers. According to him, not even the USA could force Israel to negotiate with an organization whose primary goal was the total destruction of Israel. The PLO, he says, is rejected also by the Arab states, where they have also carried out terrorist activities.

Ben Abraham then asks Gait’s opinion about Israel’s reprisal attacks against Lebanon, which had caused civilian casualties. He answers by arguing that the PLO builds their bases beside the refugee camps, in order both to be shielded from Israeli attacks and to explore any incident involving civilian casualties with their propaganda.

About the settlement of Jewish colonies in the West Bank, he says the areas of Yehuda and Shomron are a part of Biblical Israel and, whilst the Israeli government would not interfere with Arab internal issues, those areas could not be kept from Israeli colonization, since this was a way to safeguard Israel’s security. Elissar finally says that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Israel, and therefore it is indivisible and unnegotiable.

Oct 10th 1980
Exclusive Interview with Simcha Erlich, Israeli vice-PM in Sao Paulo
“Israel will not oppose Arafat in Jordan”
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Ben Abraham opens the interview by questioning Erlich about the Jerusalem law, that had recently been approved by Knesset. Erlich says he regrets the fact some countries have removed their diplomatic missions from Jerusalem, but he believes that happened because of the pressure of oil exporter countries. He then compares the free access Israel concedes to holy places of all religions in Jerusalem to what was done by Jordan during the 1948-1967 occupation of the Eastern section of the city, during which Jewish gravestones were used to pave streets, 26 synagogues were destroyed and the Western Wall was made into a public privy. Also, he says, foreign tourists from all religions that had first visited holy places in Israeli territory were denied access to the Old City in Jerusalem by Jordanian authorities. But, since nothing changed after many countries including USA complaining against the construction of the Knesset in the New City in Jerusalem in 1949, Erlich believes there will be no concessions about Old Jerusalem either.

Erlich says the pact between Syria and the Soviet Union is very serious for all Western nations, not only Israel. He also says Israel is neutral in the Iran-Iraq war, since both countries desire its destruction. He sees two main dangers from the war: 1) the rise in oil prices; 2) the possibility of involvement of the world powers in the conflict. However, he says, the war made it clear Israel is not to blame for the tensions in the Middle East, but rather the rivalries among the countries in the region, which do not abide by their own peace treaties.

The last and most important topic of the interview is the PLO and Arafat’s role in leading the Palestinians. Erlich says the PLO is a group of murderers and there is no possibility Israel could make an agreement with them. He sees only two countries in the area: Israel and Jordan, which contains 80% of the Palestinian population. If Arafat want to represent this population, he should discuss this with King Hussein, Erlich says, since there is no place for a third country in the areas of Yehuda and Shomron. This area represents only 4% of the Jordanian territory, but means everything for Israel in terms of security. He closes the interview by saying that Israel would not interfere if a republican revolution took place in Jordan and Arafat were elected president. This would be a Jordanian internal issue.

Nov 13th 1980
Exclusive interview with Edgar M. Bronfman, president of the World Jewish Congress in Sao Paulo
“Jewish Leader gives interview to the FT”
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Ben Abraham asks Bronfman about what the WJC represents and when it was founded. He says it represents the Diaspora Jewry and was founded in the 1930s, in response to the Nazi threat. Their main current efforts were the support of the State of Israel, the problem of Soviet Jews and the rise in anti-Judaism in all the world. He emphasizes that the Jews in all countries support the state of Israel and recognize it as the spiritual center of the Jewish community.

He believes the rise in anti-Judaism has three main reasons: 1) the weakening of the memory and culpability of the Holocaust; 2) the growing dependence of the world on Arab oil; 3) the activities carried out by the PLO and other terrorist organizations, with the objective of destroying Israel and the Jewish people.

Bronfman says the WJC has been investigating anti-Jewish issues all over the world for decades.

In relation to the 1980 presidential elections in USA, he says Reagan sees Israel as a strong strategic ally in the Middle East, mentioning a public opinion poll showing that support for Israel has never been so strong among Americans. Also, he says Reagan considers the PLO as a terrorist organization.

In June 1981, speculations arose as to whether the Mossad would have hijacked a Brazilian plane carrying 8 tons of enriched Uranium to Iraq. The Brazilian government recalled the Brazilian ambassador in Israel, Vasco Mariz. During the crisis, Ben Abraham was called by Israeli Foreign Relations Secretary and Prime Minister candidate Itzchak Shamir, who desired to give him an exclusive interview (6 days before the election). Shamir denied any involvement of Israel in the problem, emphasizing that Israel was interested in maintaining good relations with Brazil. The interview was publish on the first page of the FT the next day (June 25th 1981), and consequently the “Uranium case” was considered ended. The interview is not transcribe in the book.

July 7th 1981
Summary of Exclusive Interviews given to Ben Abraham during his six-week international trip, during which he visited Israel, Lebanon, France, Switzerland, Candada, USA and Yugoslavia.
“Ben Abraham: New reports for FT
Folha da Tarde

This brief note announces Ben Abraham had visited several countries and had returned to Brazil with “abundant material”, which would be published by FT in the upcoming editions. It mentions he had interviewed Itzchak Schamir – Israel’s Foreign Relations Secretary –; Dr. Naftali Lawi – General Director of the Israeli Foreign Relations Minister and later General Consul in New York -; Major Saad Haddad – Commander of Falangist Forces in Southern Lebanon -; Branko Novakovic – General Director for Midlle East Affairs in Yugoslavia -; Dr. Mirko Perovic – President of the Supreme Court in Yugoslavia -; and Rudy Botschvitz – President of the US Senate Committee for Middle East Affairs.

The note also mentions that Ben Abraham researched about the situation of abandoned minors in all the countries he visited, and later presented a report to FEBEM, the Brazilian institution in charge of the issue, of which he was a member.

July 25th 1981
Exclusive interview with Major Saad Haddad, Commander of the South Lebanon Army during the Lebanese Civil War. According to BA’s book, this interview was reproduced by international media.
“Major Saad wants PLO out of Lebanon”
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Ben Abraham introduces Major Saad as someone allied to Israel and decidedly opposed to any concessions to the PLO. His main concern was to see Lebanon free from Palestinian terrorists that had established their bases in the country. He says no state should be given to them, which would be “the greatest crime in History”, but they should rather be driven out from Lebanon and sent to the Arab states. He says no Arab states would ever allow the PLO to do what they had been doing in Lebanon, mentioning as an example the killing of around 20 thousand Palestinians in Jordan and the expulsion of the remainders.

Hadaad makes a strong appeal for the international Lebanese community, especially in Brazil, to receive aid and support from them in their efforts to return Lebanon to the Lebanese people.

He says that the Christian Lebanese in the North was also fighting against the PLO, but he was not sure about their political line, since they also received aid from Israel but reviled it publicly.

A brief note after the text of the interview says its recording was broadcast by a Brazilian radio in Sao Paulo in August 1981, during a demonstration of the Brazilian Lebanese community against the presence of the PLO in Lebanon.

Feb 1982
Exclusive Interview with Itzchak Shamir, held in June 1981
“Israel and the world of administrative autonomy”
Folha da Tarde

Ben Abraham asked Shamir if Sadat’s reaction at the bombardment of the Iraqi nuclear plant was a demonstration that Egypt could renounce its peace agreement after they received the Sinai back. Shamir replied that he could not answer for Sadat, but he believed Sadat would keep the stance that the 1973 had been the last one between Israel and Egypt.

Shamir said that the Israeli government conceived the Palestinian autonomy as it was described in the Camp David Treaty: they would have administrative autonomy and for 5 years the Israeli army would remain in the security zones of Yehuda and Shomron. After this time frame, they would study the case with the Jordanians and the local Palestinian representatives, with perhaps the participation of Egypt and the USA in the talks.

Shamir said he did not believe Arafat would ever recognize the existence of the State of Israel, and would never give up his principle of fighting to destroy it. He said that with such a stance, the PLO would lose its reason to exist.

May 1983
Exclusive Interview with Haim Kaufman, Israeli Finance vice-Secretary in Sao Paulo
“Haim Kaufman: Israel does not intend to interfere in the politics of its neighbors”
Folha da Tarde

Kaufman is introduced by Ben Abraham as a prominent Israeli politician and an optimistic businessman. In the interview, Kaufman said he believed in the pacific coexistence between Jews and Arabs in the West Bank. He said in no case the Biblical areas of Yehuda and Shomron would become an Arab state, while the Arabs living in the region have access to the same rights of Jewish Israelis. Kaufman said those areas have developed under Israeli jurisdiction, especially in the fields of health, agriculture and civil construction. He also said the problems among the Palestinian community in those areas were small compared to what could happen if a new Arab state was created there. He reiterated the Camp David Treaty, according to which the Palestinians in the West Bank would have full autonomy in the fields of internal administration, education and economy, while Israel would keep its position in relation to security and foreign policy.

Kaufman said he was against the federation of the West Bank as part of Jordan. In case Arafat seized the power in Jordan, even if it were by a coup, Kaufman said his government would be recognized, since Israel had no intention to meddle with other countries’ internal affairs.

Kaufman said Israel was not concerned with the installation of Russian SAM 5 missiles in Syria, since the Lebanese war had demonstrated Israeli technology could neutralize soviet weapons. Besides, he said, the free world was aware that Israel was the greatest obstacle to soviet penetration in such a strategically important region as the Middle East.

Closing the interview, Kaufman said the supposed poisonings in Janin and Hebron were nothing but “collective psychosis spread by PLO agents”, and affirmed there were no proofs it had really taken place.

Aug 20th 1983
Exclusive interview with Joseph Burg, Israeli Secretary of the Interior, Religious Affairs and the Police, in Sao Paulo
“Israel and the inquiry about the massacres”
Folha da Tarde

Ben Abraham asks Burg why he endeavored to form a committee to investigate about the Sabra and Shatila massacres in 1982. He said that, since the beginning, it was clear that the killings had been perpetrated by dissenting Lebanese Falangist factions, and nevertheless the media had blamed Israel. He said those involved in the incident, whether indirectly or by omission, had been punished in a demonstration that the Law of Moses guided the Jewish people even today. At the same time he pointed out that the massacres in Biafra, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Chad had taken much less space in the media than the accusations against Israel, despite the fact the massacre had been perpetrated by Arabs against Arabs. He also said that the USA had complained about the Israeli presence in Lebanon, and was complaining again now that Israel wanted to retreat from Lebanon.

Burg also talks about his policies for the recovery of criminals in Israel and about the perspectives of both Brazil and Israel in relation to the world economic crisis. He closes by saying Israel is open to share its rural technology and experience with Brazil.

Aug 20th 1981
Exclusive Interviews with Dr. Branko Novakovic – General Director of the Middle East Department in Yugoslavia in Belgrade and Dr. Kenneth Jacobson, head of the Anti-Defamation League of the B’nai B’rith, in New York, two weeks after
“Middle East: ‘In loco’ analysis. Two specialists defend their views”
Folha da Tarde

Ben Abraham introduces Mr. Novakovic as politically pro-Arab and anti-Israeli, such as Major Tito. However, he says Novakovic said Yugoslavia voted for the partition plan in 1947 and allowed the exit of Jews to the State of Israel after its creation. Although claiming that Israel is an aggressor, Novakovic admitted that Yugoslavia did not agree with the Arab goal of “throwing the Jews in the sea”, mentioning a conversation between Tito and Nasser in 1967 where the Yugoslavian tried to convince the Egyptian president to recognize the reality of the existence of Israel and try to find a political solution of coexistence. He said Tito said the same to Nahum Goldmann, president of the World Jewish Congress at the time. He also said that Tito believed Israel’s economic potential and technology could benefit the Arab countries.

In relation to the PLO, Novakovic said Yugoslavia had excellent relations with the Palestinians. He said Arafat was a moderate and realistic person, who was aware it was impossible to annihilate Israel and had never mentioned the intention to destroy it.
Ben Abraham closes the text of the interview by mentioning that his questioned about the PLO charter, which clearly states the opposite, was left unanswered.

When asked about the perspectives of peace in the Middle East, Jacobson said there was not any other Arab leader willing to follow Sadat’s example. He said Arafat could be included in negotiations only if he renounced terrorism and changed the PLO Charter, which claimed for the destruction of Israel.

Jacobson said he did not believe Sadat would renounce its peace treaty with Israel after receiving Sinai back because he needed to secure good relations with Israel in order to continue receiving American aid, which had only been approved by the Congress after the Camp David treaty had been signed. Besides, said Jacobson, Reagan had made it clear that Israel was USA’s most important ally, especially because of the soviet advance.

He also said the Palestinian issue was not the most import problem in the region, but rather the several divergences among Arab states and among different religious factions.