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It’s time for Spier II




Despite our many failings as a nation, South Africa remains a beacon of hope for those who believe that even the most complex of political problems can be solved through compromise and negotiation.

It has long been the official position of South African Jewish leadership, that South Africa holds the potential to play a meaningful role in facilitating dialogue between the two sides, if only South Africa moderated its skewed anti-Israel bias. But with no potential role in the offing, there is little incentive for the South African government or the ANC to de-radicalise their anti-Israel rhetoric. Where there are no consequences, there is no incentive to change behaviour.

The meeting between Abbas, the SA Jewish Board of Deputies and the Zionist Federation facilitated by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and President Jacob Zuma, opens the possibilities to allow SA Jewry to trumpet the call for peace and to ensure that we all play a meaningful role, as difficult as it may be, in pushing the parties back to the negotiating table.

At the turn of the millennia, the South African government under President Thabo Mbeki, embarked on an initiative at the Spier wine estate near Stellenbosch. In a statement by the South African representative to the Non-Aligned Movement, our government explained: “The meeting allowed the Israeli and Palestinian delegations to share South Africa’s experience in negotiations, peacemaking and transition to democracy.

“The meeting is part of an ongoing process aimed at creating a favourable environment to restart negotiations and to support the strengthening of the peace coalition in Palestine and Israel, as well as the general dynamic towards peace.”

As part of the initiative, then President Mbeki hosted a two-day conference with the Israeli Likud Party in Pretoria. “We are concerned about the Middle East and very interested in peace,” Mbeki said in welcoming the Likud delegation. “Peace for the Israelis and peace for the Palestinians… If we can contribute something, however small, to end this conflict, we will be very honoured to do so.”

A year later, Mbeki wrote: “As our movement sat at that negotiating table, it understood clearly that we would have to enter into compromises with our erstwhile enemies, deliberately sacrificing the prospect of total victory, to save the many lives…

“Perhaps wrongly, because, like us, they observe the Middle East from afar, our people have supported what we have tried to do to communicate their plea to the Israelis and Palestinians that, together, they should make the sovereign determination that their guns have turned into an enemy of peace, and therefore that the deadly dialogue of gunfire and bombs has to cease…

“They have welcomed what they saluted as a combined search for an equitable peace of the brave, without which neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians could realise their most beautiful, human and normal dreams, which dreaming would enable them together to escape from a shared nightmare.”

The Spier initiative ultimately failed to gain the support of the Israeli government and most South African Jewish leadership who openly distanced themselves from the process. The initiative which had brought together former Israeli Foreign Minister Yossi Beilin and former Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg, together with Palestinian leaders Saeb Erekat and Zaid Abu Ziad, led nowhere.

One reason for the failure of the initiative was that it brought politicians together at too early a stage. Most successful peace negotiations, such as the Oslo Accords, involve politically influential role-players rather than politicians themselves.

These role-players try to work out mutually acceptable frameworks which they can present back to their political leadership in order to kick-start a process of political negotiations. A second problem with Spier was that it dipped only into the pool of leftist Israelis who held little sway over the politicians who would ultimately make the decision to proceed.

Today, In Jerusalem and Ramallah, peace talks have come to a grinding halt. Abbas has been weakened by the successes of Hamas and Israel is meandering its way towards early elections with the possibility of an extreme right-leaning government. It’s a difficult time for either party to talk.

There are those who believe that no peace is ever possible and that we should commit ourselves to ever increasing cycles of war and violence. There are those of us who remember that in the 1980s it was a common refrain within the local Jewish community that the problems between Israelis and Palestinians would be solved long before the vexing problems of South African apartheid. How wrong they were…

Surely it’s now time for South African Jewry to contemplate taking the initiative with a Spier II process. By involving The Peres Centre for Peace, The Mandela Foundation, The ANC, the SA government and negotiators such as Cryril Ramaphosa and Roelf Meyer, South African Jewry can contribute immeasurably by trying to get all of the parties to understand each other better and bringing them closer to a resumption of dialogue.

Brusssels - HowardFor many, it’s hard to talk peace at a time of war, but for true leaders, it’s time to play our part in helping to move all sides towards our elusive dream of peace.

RIGHT: Sackstein ran the 1999 national elections. “It was rivetting TV-viewing for my mother,” says Howard – seen here at the results board with Madiba

SPOKE IN NY & ATE WITH JEWRY IN BRUSSELS – On 12 December 2013 SAJR Online recounted a delightful story of how a youthful HOWARD SACKSTEIN engineered a dinner for Euro-Jewry with Mandela in Brussels – en route home from addressing the UN. A worthwhile read!

  • Howard Sackstein has a BA in International Relations, an LLB and a Masters degree in Political Advocacy & International Conflict Resolution from Brandeis University. He studied international conflict resolution under world-renowned Prof Herb C Kelman at Harvard University and facilitated dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians in the early 1990s. He was a founder of the Jewish anti-apartheid movement, Jews for Social Justice and was executive director of the IEC. He is a director of the SA Jewish Report and chairman of the ABSA Jewish Achiever Awards.


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  1. Mordechai

    Dec 9, 2014 at 7:29 am

    ‘With all due respect Mr Sackstein there is absolutely no chance that South Africa can play any role in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. South Africa, led by its government is so Anti Israel and so pro the Palestinians that it is a joke to even mention this. As for the South African Jewish community I again say with due respect that you are so removed from reality that it is sad. The South African Jewish community was unable or at the very least reluctant to criticise and punish a Jewish student who wore a Palestinian symbol in support of the Hamas and the Palestinians when rockets are being fired at Israel and Jews being killed by Palestinians while wearing the same item….infact many SouthAfican leaders made excuses for this person. The South African Jewish community tolerates and many of its leaders support the blatantly anti Israel Tutu as a patron of the Holocaust Foundation, the South African community meets with Abbas who is president of an organization that calls the butchering of Jews in Shule during services as the act of martyrs, the South African community representatives meets with Abbas who is in a coalition government with Hamas while the parents, wives and children of Jews butchered have just finished sitting Shiva for their loved ones….so Mr Sackstein please get with reality and try to assist the current South African community  develop some backbone, instead of trying to promote the impossible’

  2. Choni

    Dec 9, 2014 at 8:25 am

    ‘Mordechai, You are so right. If one can be more than 100% correct, you are.’

  3. Mordechai

    Dec 9, 2014 at 8:46 am

    ‘So in short Mr Sackstein focus on getting the issues with the South African Jewish leadership and its apathy toward haters of Israel (including your government) sorted out before your Jewish community puts it’s nose into the Israel and Palestinian question…Israel is capable of dealing with Abbas without the assistance of the SAJBD.’

  4. Choni

    Dec 9, 2014 at 10:51 am

    ‘I thought one of the guidelines for censoring comments was Anti-Semitism.
    \nWhat could be more anti-Semetic than to propose to expel 650,000 Jews (one would be too many) from their homes, buisnesses, shuls, schools, kindergardens, community centres, and hand their God given land over to the Islamic enemy?
    \nThis is exactly what results ‘peace negotiations would  entail if \”succesfull\”
    \nIf these consequences are not anti-Semetic, then I don’t know the meaning of the word.
    \nShame on you Mr. Sackstein, all our so called leaders, who desire peace with the biggest Jew killers since Hitler.



    Choni, your interpretation of the implications of what has been stated reflect your own radical interpretation of what has been said – by far the minority interpretation. Do not try to impose it on, or harass, the majority of others. You are welcome to state your opinions – but this subject, after such a rude comment, is now closed to you for debate. I have been away for a week and I note that my colleagues have been more lenient on your comments in my absence. I think you have taken advantage of this which I will not allow you to continue to do. ANT KATZ



  5. Choni

    Dec 10, 2014 at 6:43 am

    ‘Surely by promoting negotiations between Israel and \”Palestine\”, you are, in reality, in favour of expelling 650,000 Jews from their homes, buisnesses, shuls, schools, kindergardens, communities, and even graves, and surrendering our God given land to the Islamic enemy. Is this what you really want Howard?’

  6. Choni

    Dec 10, 2014 at 10:40 am

    ‘My interpretation corresponds to exactly what happened when 85000 Jews were expelled from Gush Katif in 2005.
    \nIt is not radical, and certainly not a minority opinion.
    \nIn my opinion my comment is not , as you put it, rude.
    \nYour reaction, however, is naieve.
    \nSo now you are ‘gagging’ me again.
    \nWhat’s with you Ant?



    HI Choni, we have known each other for almost six years. Your regular visits and to post comments when you feel differently from a writer has always been welcomed.
    \nHowever, and I do not intend to go through all the definitions and explanations for the umpteenth time, your propensity to insult writers who have different opinions to you and to troll off-subject in our comments columns will not be accepted. Once again, you are most welcome to say “I feel” or “I think” on the topic of the original piece or a comment that has appeared.
    \nBut going off topic or telling others off because they have opinions will not be tolerated… ever! Your fellow-users do want to know what you think, NOT WHAT YOU THINK OTHERS SHOULDN’T THINK! 





  7. Choni

    Dec 12, 2014 at 7:40 am

    ‘I feel, and think that this ‘traitorous’ column should never have been published.’

  8. Mordechai

    Dec 14, 2014 at 9:37 am

    ‘Choni whilst not a long time follower of the SA Jewish Report I must say I agree with your points of view and statements. To the Editor who is retiring after devoting many years to the SA Jewish Community my only hopefully constructive input is that I believe the SA Jewish Report must take a position, either to the left or the right. It is impossible to steer a middle path and stay relevant. Clearly with the way the world governments in the main and particularly the South African Government are so blatantly anti Israel there is only one course to adopt and that is to be to the right of the political spectrum when it comes to Israel. The public ousting of Tutu from the Holocaust Foundation, the public criticism of the student supporting the Palestinians/Hamas, the public decrying of the SA Jewish Board and King David for tolerating this kids position, the total rebuttal of the Zionist Fed and SAJBD for meeting with Abba, the public criticism of the SA govnt for being openly anti Israel, pro Palestinians and supporting the BDS, the SA govnt for boycotting Israel products and the list goes on. I also believe your publication has a moral obligation to tell South Africas youth (those 35 and under) to leave S Africa as there is no future there for them and more importantly their children..Israel being first choice and if not Israel then Australia, Canada or USA, but it is time to go are a few of the things the SA Jewish report must do…it is your duty to SA Jewry and the Jewish State of Israel’


    Dec 15, 2014 at 2:37 pm

    ‘Hi Ant and all Jews – going back in History for just a moment – let me remind everyone how a 2 state solution is not a necessity as there has never been a Palestinian nation – the Israelis were the first Palestinians (remember the Palestine Post?) There also is no \”Palestinian language\” they spoke Arabic. In 1921 the Muslims voted Haj Amin al-Husseini after Herbert Samuel was so undecided about his choice of Grand Mufti. Haj Amin took action in Jaffa with thousands of his followers and slaughtered  hundreds of Jews living in Jaffa.  I could go on and on, and the Muslims made their way to Tel Aviv, later years to Hebron intent on killing and slaughtering al-Yahud – we can go right along this path until we reach the Synagogue massacre recently where they butchered 5 Rabbis praying in Shul.  Nothing has changed Ant, and we still want to TRY and snuggle up to Abbas a holocaust denier with our Govt who admit to being anti Israeli, OH NO not at all anti Jewish etc etc.  We have a wonderful tragic proud History beginning and hopefully not ending with people who want to give up land for peace.  So I have jumped from 1921 to 2014, this old   Jewish South African/Israeli Bobba who likes to read and internalise History.  We must be very careful of people in our midst – mostly left leaning – who never learn anything.  I do not care a twit for people with degrees from Harvard or wherever mouthing words and actions that could endanger our beloved Eretz Israel.  I wish you all a Happy Channuka             Miriam’

  10. Choni

    Dec 16, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    ‘Yasher Koach Miriam

    Your hubby of 57 years.’

  11. HayyimEdinburg

    Dec 17, 2014 at 10:07 pm

    ‘Kol hakavod Mordechai, Choni and Miriam for putting

    the South African Jewish leadership and the Report

    in their place. They cannot stifle you any longer because you speak the truth.

    To be honest, when I am asked of my origins, I am too

    ashamed to say I was born and educated in South Africa.

    I do remember the days when the South African Jewish

    community stood firmly by Etzel and Lehi when they forced the English to run away with their tails behind

    their legs. Those were proud days for S.A. Jewry.

    It appears that those days are over. Just remember that when you will be threatened, Jews of South Africa, who will you look to for help??

  12. Jill

    Dec 18, 2014 at 10:09 am

    ‘Well said Mordechai, Choni, Miriam and Hayyim!  Land for peace, as we all know, does  not work.  The Palestinians already have Gaza, and as we say in South Africa, \”en kyk hoe lyk sy nou\”.  Now someone wants to give away more land?  Mr Sacksen needs to find out all the facts before writing nonsense.  There is no comparison between the South African situation and that of being surrounded by terrorists on all sides, as is the case in Israel.’

  13. Hayyim Edinburg

    Dec 18, 2014 at 11:50 am,



  14. Choni

    Dec 19, 2014 at 11:00 am

    ‘Spier 11 reminds one of what happened on Jan. 20 1942 at the villa at 56-58 Am groben Wannsee, when administrative leaders of various Nazi government departments meet for the implementation of the ‘final solution to the Jewish question’.

    Spier 1, and now Spier 11, would implement the ‘legitimate’ mass deportation of 650,000 Jews from their Historic Land, the goal of the P.L.O. and Mahmood Abbas. -aided, and abetted by none other than Howard Sackstein.’

  15. David Hersch

    Dec 23, 2014 at 8:58 pm

    ‘So, what was so wonderful about Spier I and what did it achieve? NOTHING!!! I remember well the pompous and self-inflated members of the Board of Deputies with their pouting chests rushing off in their imagined glory to shake the hands of Erekat and others. Such kavod! Such yichus! A complete waste of time then and it will be a waste of time the second time around. Only love is allegedly lovelier the second time around, not Spier II and interfering where only Israelis should go. What utter nonsense and infantile romantic balderdash!

    South Africa has no role to play in the Israel/Palestine issue, never did have and never will have and has proven over and over again it is no honest broker. Stop spreading honey on the lips of the ANC government and flattering them. It is absolute nonsense and anyone with the meanest intelligence and insight will tell you that.

    For all his academic qualifications, I found Sackstein’s article shallow and infantile. I was quite amused with the beginning of his second paragraph, \”It has long been the official position of South African Jewish leadership….etc\”. To this we must add the insight and fact that the leadership of South Africa’s two main communal bodies have been under the dictatorial control of the Krengel Brotherhood for almost an equally long time. Does anyone therefore expect anything different? Oh please!!!

    I found the article boring verging on painful to read this silly opinion piece. Is Sackstein an avid follower, sycophant or clone of the Krengels?

    I think the Israeli government, polite as they may be, the current or next government, find this nonsense emanating from the South African Jewish community a gross interference and irritation with no contribution to make except to run interference and throw a spanner in the works. Let us get real. What does the over-inflated SA Jewish leadership actually know, what insights do they have, what knowledge? Leave it to the Israeli government and the people that elect them, and, most of all, live there. Best advice: Stay out and keep quiet.

    The latest meeting with Abbas lead by Zev Krengel was appalling and treasonous lending support to Israel’s enemy and the very next day, after Krengel’s slouching interview on eNCA, Abbas flew off to Egypt and promptly said the exact opposite to what he had said to Krengel and the Board’s delegation which Krengel had so enthusiastically reported as if he had achieved some miraculous breakthrough.

    Benny Morris, lecturing at UCT at the 2014 Summer School, was asked the very question that this silly article tries to deal with and his short and succinct reply was that the jury is still out on South Africa and it will take 50-100 years to see if it was a real success or not. So far, lets face it, South Africa and its ANC government are not a roaring success. Shall I mention crime, unemployment, the economy, rate of exchange, Financial down rating, Nkandla, nepotism, incompetence, Eskom, 3000 farmers murdered, reverse Apartheid, failed towns and provinces and so much more?

    Its not a case of \”Play it again\” Messrs Sackstein and Krengel. Rather, stay away and stick to your last. Better as far as the Krengels are concerned, maspik, dayanu, enough. Please go!



    The South African Israel Public Affairs Committee

    Cape Town

  16. Tony Trenton

    Dec 25, 2014 at 12:39 am

    ‘The Israeli / fake PA conflict has nothing to do with territory. The Egyptian terrorist Arafat Invented the PA 50 years ago with the sole purpose of constantly antagonizing Israel into Military conflict.

    The fake PA have never ever wanted a two state solution and a peaceful relationship with Israel .

    Their Islamic purpose is to maintain the media attention for the world wide Jihadist to maintain their focus  on an Islam only world without infidels.

    For this purpose Islam has chosen the path of GENOCIDE of all Infidels world wide .

  17. Choni

    Dec 25, 2014 at 8:58 am

    After reading David Hersch’s brilliant and truthful analysis and comment, I would suggest …



    Hi Choni, we have removed your statements because you have been misinformed. What you say is untrue, libellous and could land you in both debt and in jail.


    I find it strange that just half an hour later, you penned a very reconciliatory response to another user on the “German suitcases” story


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