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Ground-breaking diplomatic SA/Israel talks

  • Gold Dore1
A fantastic diplomatic breakthrough has been made between South Africa and Israel over the past few months and it all culminated in an invitation by SA’s most senior diplomat to his Israeli counterpart – a meeting that took place in Pretoria last week and promised to be the harbinger of many more positive events to come.
by ANT KATZ | Mar 16, 2016

SA Invites Gold 



Last week Thursday, the South African director-general of the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco), Ambassador Jerry Matjile, and his counterpart from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) of Israel, Ambassador Dore Gold, met in Pretoria for bilateral discussions. This was the highest-level diplomatic meeting between the two countries in over a decade and was at the invitation of the South Africans.

In a joint statement, Dirco and the Israeli Embassy said their “discussions focused on the relations between the two countries and the sides agreed on improving co-operation”.

dore goldThe discussions were widely covered by Israeli media but did not invoke the interest of mainstream South African media until Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (Israel) South Africa (BDS-SA) began demanding clarification about the meetings over the weekend.


RIGHT: Directors-general Jerry Matjile and Dore Gold shake hands after fruitful discussions in Pretoria last week

As a result, the Cape Times ran a sizeable front page article on Monday with the strapline: “Baleka Mbete slams Israel while Dirco meets” under the headline, “Clarify Israeli co-operation”. In the article, however the headline is not attributed as a quote to anybody.

Similar stories followed in other Independent Media publications.  

Israel’s ambassador to South Africa Arthur Lenk, told Independent in answer to their questions of explaining the nature of the meetings, that Israel did not “want to put words in the mouth of the SA government but our understanding was that there can be an exchange of information between experts. It's not shocking because it's what countries do. The more you have interests in common, the more you do (together).”

On Sunday, Matjila had referred questions from Independent Media to Dirco spokesman Clayson Monyela, who confirmed the meeting had taken place. “We have diplomatic relations with Israel but that doesn't mean we won't support Palestine,” Monyela said.

“South Africa has a big Jewish community and even some Christians go to Israel, which they see as holy ground.”

Following several years marked by a high degree of tension, the official visit left Jerusalem feeling positive that greater co-operation with South Africa and other African countries are possible.

Gold told reporters of his desire for a “normalisation of relations and for the establishment of a dialogue with South Africa as part of Israel's policy to forge closer relations with African countries”.

The joint statement said: "The discussions were held in a positive atmosphere and a shared desire to deepen dialogue and friendly relations between South Africa and Israel."

The two top diplomats were accompanied and assisted at the meeting by their respective ambassadors, Sisa Ngombane and Arthur Lenk, and other members of their staff.

The directors-general agreed that officials from South Africa and Israel will work together on national priority issues such as water, agriculture, trade, science and technology.

“The sides also discussed the situation in the Middle East,” said their statement.

The meeting comes after a public cooling of relations over the past several years, which pundits have attributed more to infighting in South Africa’s ruling ANC party over policy toward Israel than to any pragmatic or political reasons.

Trade and tourism between the two countries have been booming - generally with the balance being in favour of South Africa. In their joint media release, the two sides emphasised the importance of trade delegations in both directions.

Gold told SA Jewish Report on a visit to Soweto last week Friday that while the discussions had been cordial and fruitful, and that follow-up discussions would be held, the two sides still had much to learn about one another’s cultures and needs. That, said Gold, was why he had taken the opportunity to visit Soweto and the Mandela House Museum.

While recognising the importance of the meeting, Gold was at pains to tell Jewish Report that “there is still a great deal of work to do” before the countries can expect to see any changes on the ground.

Political pundits close to the discussions, both in Israel and South Africa, told Jewish Report that it was expected that there would be a number of delegations from South Africa headed for Israel over the next few months.

“Don’t expect to hear anything about these interactions in the public domain, however,” said one insider - “at least until after the local government elections.” 

dore gold2
ABOVE: South African Ambassador to Israel Sisa Ngombane and Israeli Ambassador to South Africa Arthur Lenk with the two countries’ top diplomats, directors-general Jerry Matjile and Dore Gold, in Pretoria last week Thursday

 

5 Comments

  1. 5 BDS WORKS 16 Mar
    why did the Editor leave this out? “It was a consultation meeting and no agreements were signed. The meeting was taking place at an administrative level,” Monyela
    Nothing was removed. Maybe the poster left it out. We always afford you your right to comment (within our comment rules) - a courtesy we are not sure you would afford to pro-Israel lobbyists. Just saying...   -ANT KATZ online editor
  2. 4 Choni 16 Mar
    I say that this gesture by S.Africa broke the drought.
  3. 3 nat cheiman 17 Mar
    BDS WORKS; The world is gatvol of your anti Israel antics and lies. You and your ilk tell lies and people now see thru your lies. You and your pals are NOT relevant. You invent nothing. Your economies fail. You make war with your own people. Basically, you are a bunch of losers. Your countries from which you emanate, have nothing. That is why people in your country emigrate like sheep to the west
    Why on earth should Israel help SA or rogue states?
    It is types like you that support Zuma the liar and his under achieving comrades. BDS has failed because of its lack of morality and lack of education of individuals that run it. SA has zilch to offer Israel.
    SA will never be a friend of Israel because they only have people like al bashir as friends, and Kim Jong Un ( the guy with the haircut). SA has a propensity just like BDS, to befriend rogues, losers and criminals.
    You, Mr BDS, would not afford a JEW or Israeli to make comments in a muslim or BDS newspaper and if I were the editor of SAJR, I would tell you to go to hell.
    In fact, I would ignore your infantile drivel. 
  4. 2 BDS WORKS 20 Mar
    Call for DIRCO to set the record straight following Israeli claims and mistruths http://ymlp.com/zdQwKm 
    Sorry, guys, but only you made that comment and once again you embarrassed your friends with your untruths. Beware of crying wolf too often...  -ED

  5. 1 nat cheiman 23 Mar
    ANT, these guys just don't give up on garbage

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