SA & Israel got down to talking serious business

  • Gold Dore1
On Thursday 10 March the director-general of The Department of International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa (DIRCO), Ambassador Jerry Matjile, and his counterpart from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) of Israel, Ambassador Dore Gold, pictured, 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. Read what they discussed, see the pictures
by ANT KATZ | Mar 13, 2016

In a joint media release Friday, DIRCO and the Israeli Embassy said that their “discussions focused on the relations between the two countries and the sides agreed on improving cooperation between the two countries.”

Following several years of high tensions, the Director General of the Israeli Foreign Ministry came on an official visit to Pretoria. Jerusalem hopes to build closer relations with African countries.Israel’s Ynetnews reported, adding that “after a long period of tense diplomatic relations between Israel and South Africa.” Gold has expressed 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.”

dore goldGold met with his South African counterpart, Jerry Matjila, in Pretoria on Thursday. A joint statement issued following their meeting announced, "The discussions were held in a positive atmosphere and a shared desire to deepen dialogue and friendly relations between South Africa and Israel."

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

The top diplomats from the two countries were accompanied and assisted by their respective ambassadors, Sisa Ngombane and Arthur Lenk at the meeting (see picture below).

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, presumably the political situation.

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

The influence of ambassadors Ngonyema and Lenk and their respective ambassadorial staffers, however, cannot go unrecognised. They have made great strides in relations over the past two years.

Trade and tourism between the countries has 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.

“The discussions were held in a positive atmosphere and a shared desire to deepen dialogue and friendly relations between South Africa and Israel,” read the release.

Ambassador Gold told SAJR on a visit to Soweto on Friday that while the discussions had been cordial and fruitful, and while follow-up discussions would be held, the two sides still had much to learn about one another’s cultures and needs. That, said Dore (pronounced Dorey) Gold, was why he had taken the opportunity to visit Soweto and the Mandela House museum on Friday.

 dore gold2

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 Thursday


  1. 5 nat cheiman 13 Mar
  2. 4 Choni 13 Mar
    See! The drought ended this week.
  3. 3 BDS WORKS 14 Mar
    THE Department of International Relations and
    Co-operation (Dirco) has been asked to clarify its “co-operation” agreement
    with Israel.

    This after several government officials, including
    Speaker of Parliament Baleka Mbete, came out strongly against Israel last week
    during Israeli Apartheid Week.

    But at the same time, Dirco director-general Jerry
    Matjila met his Israeli counterpart, Dr Dore Gold. According to the Israel
    Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, Matjila and Gold met in Pretoria on
    Thursday and agreed “that officials from South Africa and Israel will work
    together on national policy issues such as water, agriculture, trade and
    science and technology”.

    This appeared to contradict Mbete’s views. Speaking
    at Stellenbosch University on Friday at the 12th annual international #IsraeliApartheidWeek
    campaign, Mbete said in part: “It would be fair to say progress has been slow.
    The Israeli regime, just like the apartheid regime before it, is obstinate and
    uncompromising. But apartheid eventually crumbled under the weight of history.

    “The iron will of South Africans eventually
    triumphed and we remain confident that the yearning for freedom of the
    Palestinian people will prevail in the end.”

    In his ANC January 8 statement this year, President
    Jacob Zuma discouraged ANC members from visiting Israel, saying: “We reiterate
    we discourage travel to Israel for ANC leaders, members and representatives for
    business and leisure purposes. The ANC encourages our government to continue
    its programme of talking to all parties in the Palestinian territory and calls
    on the people of Palestine to work together to bring about self-determination.”

    Several ministers, among them Higher Education
    Minister Blade Nzimande, Deputy Minister in the Presidency Buti Manamela and
    Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Deputy Minister Obed Bapela,
    have also led campaigns against Israel.

    Yesterday, Matjila declined to comment on the
    meeting. He referred questions to Dirco spokesperson Clayson Monyela, who
    confirmed the meeting.

    “It was a consultation meeting and no agreements
    were signed. The meeting was taking place at an administrative level,” Monyela
    said, adding that the meeting doesn’t mean the government isn’t sympathetic to
    the Palestinian cause.

    “We have diplomatic relations with Israel, but that
    doesn’t mean we won’t support Palestine. South Africa has a big Jewish
    community and even some Christians go to Israel, which they see as holy ground.
    If we don’t have a relationship with Israel, who will take care of our people
    when they go there.”

    However, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions
    Movement Against Israel (BDS) called on Dirco to make a public declaration on
    what exactly the meeting was about.

    A water conference Israel’s ambassador to South
    Africa, Arthur Lenk, was due to address in Sandton on
    February 26 was cancelled, following criticism of his inclusion as speaker.

    BDS blamed opposition to Lenk’s inclusion for the cancellation, stating that
    “the Israeli regime has in recent years been attempting to break its growing
    isolation by promoting its water technology”.

    But the Israeli embassy says the conference
    organisers, the Mail & Guardian, has denied Lenk had been the reason for the cancellation.
  4. 2 nat cheiman 14 Mar
    BDS works; You are hallucinating . SA needs Israel more than Israel needs you or SA. You and your ilk have nothing. You manufacture nothing. You have no electricity or water. How idiotic is that ? You and your pals cannot even run a proper sewage works.
    You are bankrupt and devoid of any intellect because you and your pals don't want to be helped. Like Syria, Libya, Yemen, and most arab countries, you are at war with yourselves.
    Don't fool yourself that Israel needs you or SA. You are irrelevant even in Africa.
    Dream on moron.
  5. 1 Mordechai 15 Mar
    What a waste of time. Israel should not spend one dollar assisting South Africa in any way what so ever. 


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