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Zimbabwe’s MDC pledges to form strong ties with Israel

  • Zimbabwe
As Zimbabwe prepares to go to the polls on 30 July in its first elections since the fall of Prime Minister Robert Mugabe, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Alliance Leader Nelson Chamisa announced last Thursday that his party would establish formal ties with Israel – a major foreign policy shift – if came to power.
by TALI FEINBERG | Jun 14, 2018

“We must re-establish relations with Israel. It must have an embassy here, and we must have an embassy there. Israel is a crucial player in international relations,” said the opposition leader at the launch of his party’s manifesto last Thursday.

The manifesto does not mention Israel specifically, but says: “The MDC Alliance government will pursue a conservative foreign policy in respect of which it will remain non-aligned and will seek to make friends with every decent state in the world that shares its values of democracy, constitutionalism, socially just transparency, openness, and inclusivity.”

It aims to “Ensure that Zimbabwe plays a role in conflict prevention, and peacekeeping missions across the world.”

Following Chamisa’s announcement, political commentator Darlington Musarurwa wrote in The Sunday Mail that, “The Alliance talks of supporting Israel and putting up an embassy in that country seemingly in the same manner the US government put up an embassy in Jerusalem on 14 May.”

The announcement is in stark contrast to Harare’s historic close relations with the Palestinians, who have maintained a diplomatic mission in Zimbabwe since 1980.

“Israel and Zimbabwe have had partial diplomatic ties since 1993, but have never exchanged ambassadors. Zimbabwe staunchly supported the Palestinians during the 1980s, comparing Zionism to the apartheid regime in South Africa, with state-run publication The Herald questioning Israel’s right to exist,” reported The Times of Israel.

At the same time, Zimbabwe has never supported boycotts of Israel, and in 2001, it expressed support for the two-state solution. The countries have maintained trade relations, with Israeli exports totalling more than $7 million (R92 million) in 2015, and Zimbabwean exports – almost exclusively diamonds – totalling $13.8 million (R182.3 million).

“I was overjoyed to hear Mr Chamisa’s support for Israel,” said Arnold Joffe, the Chairman of the Harare Hebrew Congregation. “I believe that the country needs change, and it is good to see the younger generation like Chamisa having more realistic policies. If the MDC does come to power, Israel could definitely play a role in improving the country in the future, in agriculture, technology and water.”

Said, the MDC’s Director of Public Affairs, Dennis Murira, “Ninety percent of Zimbabweans are Christians, and they believe in Israel’s right to exist. The origins of Christianity are in Israel,” thus it would benefit the people to build stronger relationships with the Jewish State. “Our President is a staunch supporter of Israel’s right to existence, and spiritually believes in Israel’s exceptionalism,” he said. “We are breaking with tradition and reshaping foreign policy.

Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft, the SA Jewish Board of Deputies Rabbi to South African Country Communities and Chief Executive of the African Jewish Congress, does not believe the MDC will win the 30 July elections. Despite this, he is upbeat, saying that he has established a good relationship with President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who has even asked him to be an observer in the elections.

He confirms that there is already co-operation between Harare and Jerusalem, be it in trade, agriculture and irrigation, and that Gershon Kedar, Israel’s non-resident Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Namibia, Zambia and Botswana, was warmly welcomed when he presented his credentials to the President in April.

“After the July elections, hopefully Zimbabwean government ministers will start to visit Israel,” said Silberhaft. “In addition, Mnangagwa has indicated that the history of Jews in Zimbabwe will be included in the high school history syllabus.”

He describes the country as “already back on its feet”, with many farmers and businessmen returning to work the land they fled 18 years ago. “Imagine Shmita for 18 years – the ground is incredibly fertile, and it is going to yield incredible crops. Everyone is feeling positive, including the Jewish community.”

On Twitter, the MDC’s declared support for Israel was met with anger: “This is a mistake. When most countries are actively seeking to move toward BDS, Zimbabwe must resist the urge of neo-colonialism. Instead, a full recognition of the Palestinian state would burnish the MDC’s commitment to global justice. Close ties with Israel will tarnish Zim's FP [foreign policy],” tweeted Robert Compton, a professor of Political Science.

A Zimbabwean based in Pretoria and Harare wrote: “Due to [the] Israel issue, I wont vote MDC,” but another Zimbabwean said: “You hear Zanoids lambasting MDC, yet they use a lot of Israel firms and applications in the country.”

An MDC activist, Matete Young, said, “The MDC is committed to global justice, it fully recognises the Palestinian state and doesn’t condone violence of any nature, but [it] has to follow a FP [foreign policy] that benefits us. Re-establishing a close relationship with Israel will improve US-Zim relations.”

1 Comment

  1. 1 Kathy 16 Jun
    I agree purely because they could change the scenario of our South African mindset, seeing they are such good neighbours. Also, obviously, Israel need as many ffriends and support.

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