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SA-Israel relations could worsen with continued Netanyahu leadership

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With Benjamin Netanyahu positioned to lead Israel for a fifth term following this week’s election, will it have any impact on South Africa’s relationship with the Jewish state?
by TALI FEINBERG | Apr 11, 2019

“I don’t expect the election results to have much effect, whatever the coalition results. South Africa is waiting for major concessions to the Palestinians, which was virtually a non-issue in these elections,” says Steven Gruzd, foreign policy analyst at the South African Institute of International Affairs.

“It has made this its condition for sending an ambassador back to Israel. I see no sign of any such concessions in the near future. South Africa would probably have preferred a Kachol Lavan [centrist party] win, as relations under Likud have been strained,” Gruzd says. “It’s set to be another centre-right coalition, it seems. Until the peace process resumes in earnest, South Africa’s position is unlikely to shift, and may even harden.”

Political analyst Wayne Sussman says, “I don’t think the new government, no matter what the outcome, will change the status quo with South Africa in the short to medium term.”

That’s because he predicts there will be an extremely right-wing coalition government, including the ultra-orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism, the far-right United Right List, and former Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu party.

To make the South African government happy, Israel would have to be led by a left-wing government. Sussman says it was a “catastrophic night for the left”, and he is not sure if Labour and Meretz can survive until the next election.

Meanwhile, Zev Krengel, the vice-president of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, says, “The elections in Israel were free and fair, and indicative of its robust democracy. We congratulate the winning party, and as diaspora Jewry, we look forward to working with whichever government the Israelis have chosen.”

“We are thrilled to have witnessed another successful and peaceful election in the sovereign, democratic Jewish state,” says Rowan Polovin, the chairperson of the South African Zionist Federation Cape Council.

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