SA ambassador on ‘growing warm’ with Israel

  • Embassy Yom Haatsmauth 4 May 2017 Hi Res-2603 (1) BB
Having grown used to the South African government’s negative attitude towards Israel, it was refreshing to hear Ambassador Themba Rebushe, the acting deputy director general of the Department of International Relations and Co-operation for Asia and the Middle East, describe a growing warmth between South African and Israel.
by DIANE WOLFSON | May 11, 2017

Representing the South African government at the Israeli Embassy’s Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration in the embassy gardens in Pretoria last week Thursday, Rebushe spoke positively about the increased tourism and trade exchanges in both directions. 

He confirmed that trade relations are expanding with the total trade amounting to just more than R8 billion in 2016, while Israel topped the list of foreign tourists from the Middle East visiting South Africa in 2015/16,with almost 20 000 Israeli tourists coming to this country during the same period.

Rebushe recalled that “diplomatic relations between South Africa and Israel began in 1949 when Israel established a consulate-general in Pretoria. It was upgraded to an embassy in 1974. 

“South Africa, on the other hand, established a consulate-general in Tel Aviv in 1972 which was also upgraded to an embassy in December 1975.”

Rebushe acknowledged the role played by Jews in South Africa from as early as the 1920s when they first migrated in great numbers from Eastern Europe. “They quickly became part of the nation while some emerged as prominent South Africans, struggle stalwarts, such as Esther Barsel, Helen Suzman, Denis Goldberg, and many others,” Rebushe said.

“In fact, some of them were instrumental in the establishment of the Communist Party of South Africa in 1921.

“It is important and must always be remembered, that during our struggle against apartheid, many South Africans of Jewish origin took part in the liberation struggle, some of them paying the ultimate price for our freedom.

“Some, like Eli Weinberg, arguably the best photographer of our struggle history, lie buried alongside his comrades in Morogoro, Tanzania. Today we pay tribute to the Jewish men and women who made sacrifices in order for us to be where we are today.” 

Rebushe said South Africa remains convinced that for both Israel and Palestine to achieve a lasting peace, the implementation of the two-state solution is the only viable route to follow.

“Given South Africa’s history, in terms of our vision of an African continent and the world at large which is prosperous and peaceful, it is, therefore, natural that we would wish to see the same applies in the Middle East, particularly in so far as it relates to the Middle East peace process.

“South Africa remains convinced that for both Israel and Palestine to achieve a lasting peace, the implementation of the two-state solution is the only viable route to follow. We don’t believe that lasting peace in the Middle East is possible without resolving this current impasse,” he added.

“South Africa appreciates the opportunity to discuss these and other issues of importance with Israel and is particularly pleased with the outcomes of the meeting that took place last year between our former director general, Ambassador Jerry Matjila, and the former director-general of Israel, Ambassador Dore Gold,” said Rebushe.

Before conveying South Africa’s best wishes to Israel on its 69th birthday, Rebushe took a moment to acknowledge Ambassador Arthur Lenk’s efforts. “I wish to take a moment to thank you for your dedication and spirit in which you act with regard to the sometimes difficult issues that we have.”


1 Comment

  1. 1 Gary Selikow 12 May
    This is just wishful thinking The only time ties between Israel and SA will 'warm' is when the ANC is out of power.


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