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Pandor drops bombshell about Israel

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TALI FEINBERG

She said the decision was based on “the absence of genuine initiatives by Israel to secure lasting peace and a viable two-state solution that includes full freedom and democracy for the Palestinian people”.

Pandor’s announcement came as a surprise, given that it was made during the debate on President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation (SONA) Address and he had not mentioned Israel-South Africa relations or any foreign policy issues. The idea of the debate is to thrash out issues brought up in his address, which was delivered on Friday evening.

However, Pandor’s statement follows on from the resolution taken at the ANC’s elective conference in December to downgrade South Africa’s embassy in Tel Aviv to a liaison office.

“I got the shock of my life – it came completely out of left field,” says DA MP Michael Bagraim, who was there when Pandor spoke.

“This debate was to respond to SONA, and you would think that Minister Pandor would have followed her president’s lead. Her comments were a radical departure and did not respond to anything in SONA or any comments from the House during the SONA debate,” says Bagraim.

“I think she was looking for trouble, and I am appalled. Her statement has now triggered discussions in the portfolio committee on foreign affairs and, once again, raised this spectre out of nowhere. It is very unhealthy, peculiar and untoward.”

The proposal was applauded and Pandor was given a standing ovation as she left the podium. Her statement that government would definitely cut diplomatic ties with Israel was reiterated on Parliament’s official Twitter account.

However, when Ramaphosa responded to the SONA debate, he did not reiterate Pandor’s statement. Instead, he said: “We were reminded in the House of the responsibility that we have as South Africans to those peoples on our continent and around the world who continue to suffer occupation, discrimination and oppression.

“At this moment, we wish to express our deepest concern at the continued imprisonment of Palestinian children in Israeli jails.

“We reiterate our call to the Israeli government to engage in meaningful dialogue with the Palestinian leaders to find a resolution that affirms the equal rights of both people to self-determination, freedom and security.”

Responding to both leaders’ comments, Wendy Kahn, national director of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies, said: “We are encouraged by President Ramaphosa’s support for a two-state solution on the basis of ‘equal rights of both people to self-determination, freedom and security’. We also welcome the fact that he emphasised the pivotal role of ‘meaningful dialogue’ in attaining this goal.

“Our president is a man whose own background has demonstrated the efficacy of what dialogue and negotiations can achieve. He played a role in South Africa’s successful transition to democracy through rigorous face-to-face talks between the parties concerned, including his work during Codesa and, more recently, in the visionary and masterful way he facilitated our leadership transformation. Under his leadership, our country can truly play a relevant role in assisting the Palestinians and Israelis to come together at the negotiation table so that they can find solutions.

“Minister Pandor’s comments do not reflect the ANC’s elective conference resolution and, sadly, negates a role that our country could play in finding resolution to this difficult conflict. When diplomatic relations are shut, so too is our ability to influence the process. We have written to Minister Pandor, requesting an opportunity to discuss this further.”

SA Zionist Federation chairperson Ben Swartz said: “Pandor’s comments do not seem to be founded on any overt or defined policy of the ANC. She was likely playing to the anti-Israel constituency in the ANC and Parliament.

“What is more telling, though, was President Ramaphosa’s more nuanced approach in his answers to the debate, where substantial focus was placed by him on all conflicts in Africa and around the world. I hope that this more nuanced and balanced approach to international conflicts becomes the principled approach by the ANC to international conflict.

“In so much that the ANC ‘stands in solidarity’ with the Palestinian cause… we need to believe that President Ramaphosa’s approach will be to return ANC policy to one of a constructive, as opposed to a radical and destructive, role in the challenges faced in the Middle East between Israelis and Palestinians.

“It is also important to note that in the context of the SONA debate, Reverend Kenneth Meshoe of the African Christian Democratic Party made his voice of support for Israel heard very loudly and clearly by all present.”

The Muslim community’s Media Review Network welcomed Pandor’s move, saying her “call for isolating apartheid Israel must not again be relegated to the realm of populist rhetoric”.

While some South Africans on Twitter commended Pandor, others were critical: “What is Naledi Pandor on about? Our Africa strategy, Israel and Western Sahara? ANC speakers today were oblivious to state capture and the shadow state. JZ didn’t exist,” tweeted HuffPost SA’s editor-in-chief, Pieter du Toit.

Another Twitter user, JodiAnne, wrote: “It’s well known BDS SA worked hard last year to secure big gains at the #ANC conference, equally well known is that the #Israel boycott lobby has captured foreign policy of ANC & state, hence Naledi Pandor’s short-sighted disturbing comments.”

In an article, published in Business Day on January 18 under the headline ‘Israel boycott lobby has captured foreign policy of ANC and state’, Political Analysis SA’s managing director, Mzoxolo Mpolase, emphasised this point: “On the face of it, the [downgrade] decision seems a pronouncement to be expected from the ANC – since 1994 the party and its government have had a fractious but stable relationship with Israel. However, on close examination, there are traces of capture… The crowning moment came at the Nasrec conference not because of organic change within the ANC, but due to an orchestrated charade, driven and controlled by BDS.

“This matter is far more important and goes far deeper than the ideological subscription of the ANC. The economy, the rights of South Africans with business interests in Israel, religious pilgrims and students, to mention a few, will suffer not only from an ANC that failed to apply its mind on this issue, but also from the permanent delegation of South African policy on Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to BDS – an unelected entity with vested anti-Israel and anti-Semitic persuasions.”

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. nat cheiman

    Feb 22, 2018 at 9:48 am

    ‘What can SA offer Israel?’

  2. ilana

    Feb 22, 2018 at 10:28 am

    ‘Perhaps it is time for a few ministers to be invited to visit Israel and see things for themselves.’

  3. David B

    Feb 23, 2018 at 12:43 am

    ‘Why is anyone surprised? she is simply following the radical side of the ANC policy in pandor- ing (sic) to the Arab and Muslim friends of the ANC – rhetoric does not make a policy however, and the new president may well see sense’

  4. Jessica

    Feb 26, 2018 at 9:40 am

    ‘She merely confirms the ANC’s inherent BDS minded anti-Semitism’

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