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Pre-arranged or not prearranged

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NICOLA MILTZ

Only those directly in the diplomatic loop know exactly how it came to be that Molewa, also the chairperson of the ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) Sub-committee on International Relations, met with Israel’s Minister of Regional Co-operation Tzachi Hanegbi. Was it planned, scheduled and pencilled in? Or was it simply by chance that they should meet in the corridors of the ANC head offices in Johannesburg on Monday, November 6?

Whatever the case may be, the interactions between the politicians and diplomats from both countries have ruffled feathers among South Africa’s anti-Israel lobbyists.

In July the ANC called for an investigation into whether to downgrade of the South African Embassy in Israel to a liaison office, saying it was concerned by the “lack of commitment” from Israel to finding a resolution to the Palestinian question.

Molewa’s International Relations Sub-committee is the party’s forum that will discuss and make a recommendation on the proposed downgrade during the ANC’s elective conference next month.

Hanegbi told the Jerusalem Post that it was for this reason that he and the Israeli Embassy requested the meeting.

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies, (SAJBD) said yesterday: “The meeting was constructive, with an open and honest discussion around peace building between the Israelis and Palestinians and a possible role that South Africa, with its successful transition could play. The SAJBD notes the misunderstandings that have ensued since the meeting and are engaging with the parties directly.”

This follows a diplomatic hullabaloo over statements and retractions from the ANC as to whether the meetings were planned or not.

Here is what we know:

On Monday November 6, Minister Hanegbi met with veteran politician and Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe and with Minister Edna Molewa.

On Tuesday November 7, the ANC put out a statement saying that the meetings took place and that they were held at the request of Minister Hanegbi’s office and that the delegation was received by Minister Molewa, together with members of her sub-committee.

That same day Keinan posted on his Facebook page and on Twitter: “Great meeting with South African ministers”.

In a press release the Israeli Embassy said: “Israeli Minister for Regional Co-operation, Tzachi Hanegbi, visited South Africa from the 3rd to the 6th of November. Meetings included Minister Jeff Radebe, Tokyo Sexwale, Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa, and also engaged with the South African Jewish community.

And then it became sticky. So much so that Molewa,  claimed in an op-ed piece in the Mail and Guardian that “this was an unplanned, unscheduled, chance encounter”.

Hanegbi countered this by saying the meeting was prearranged it was not “coincidental”.

Minister Molewa added in the op-ed that it was “regrettable” that the Israeli Embassy in South Africa had described the “last minute meeting” as “inter-ministerial” in its media releases and on its social media. She reiterated the ANC’s support for a free Palestine.

In the opinion piece, Molewa said it was “mischievous to infer that this engagement implies that the ANC’s support for the Palestinian cause is wavering.”

With regards to the possible downgrade, Molewa said: “It was put to the delegation that only the ANC’s national conference in December could take a final resolution on the matter. The delegation was advised that they could submit written inputs to the task team for the ANC national conference on this issue as well as on other matters.”

 

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