DA’s Maimane unrepentant over THAT visit
He stressed that 2017 was a year to look outward “and fight harder than ever to promote liberal democracy and the protection of individual human rights worldwide. South Africa should play a leading role in foreign policy issues, but for years we have aligned ourselves with despots and human rights abusers around the world.
“We have squandered a wonderful opportunity to show the world what value South Africa can add.”
South Africa was unique in the world in having found a negotiated, peaceful solution to a seemingly intractable conflict. “We can harness it to play a proactive, constructive leadership role in opening communication channels between Israeli and Palestinian leaders, to help bring them together to negotiate a peaceful solution and an end to conflict. This is why a DA delegation visited Israel and Palestine earlier this month.
“Diplomacy cannot be based on propaganda or historical alliances of government. It must be rooted in the present and based on facts. To hear both sides of a story is not only a legal and moral principle, it is also a practical necessity. If you really want to know what is going on, do what Helen Suzman did and go see for yourself. This is exactly what we did.
“We went to Israel and Palestine to get the facts and to establish constructive relationships of trust with leaders on both sides of the conflict – and also to learn about innovation and trade opportunities in the region. In addition to political leaders, we met with members of the broader community of civil society, business people and religious leaders from both sides.”
Maimane said their meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was cancelled on the day they were scheduled to meet.
“Nevertheless, we visited the Palestinian Territories – both Gaza and the West Bank – to meet with other members of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, and to gather first-hand accounts and see for ourselves. We came away feeling much better informed, with renewed confidence in our position regarding this conflict and the role South Africa should be playing in resolving it.
“Essentially, we support an end to violence and a return to negotiation for a two-state solution. Above all, we call on all parties to respect human rights. We support open trade in the region and beyond. Our role is to encourage and enable constructive negotiation, not to pronounce on the specifics of the settlement – those are for the parties themselves to negotiate.”
Referring to the ANC’s criticism of the DA for visiting Israel, he wrote: “We reject this outright. You cannot hope to resolve conflict by breaking off relations and refusing to meet those involved. We make no apology whatsoever for visiting both Israel and Palestine.
“The ANC’s reaction to our visit is revealing. Without establishing the facts, they accused us of only visiting Israel. This is not only inaccurate, but downright hypocritical, given that an ANC government delegation from the Department of Water and Sanitation visited Israel in October 2016 – without visiting Palestine. The ANC’s policy of rejecting Israel and severing diplomatic ties is destructive and will only serve to amplify the bad blood between parties that desperately need to be able to engage constructively with one another. Nothing will be achieved until Mr (Benjamin) Netanyahu and Mr (Mahmoud) Abbas are able to talk to each other.”