Relationship between SA & Israel: The time is now!
NATIONAL CHAIRMAN, SA ZIONIST FEDERATION
Recently, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu travelled to East Africa and visited Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia. In addition, he participated in a summit with the leaders of seven countries (including Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Zambia and Tanzania).
A similar summit is in the pipeline for West African states and is likely to be hosted by Togo.
Simultaneously, Guinea (an African Muslim majority country) has established formal diplomatic ties with Israel.
It is a fact that Israel and Egypt (being the powerhouse of North African politics and the most populous Arab state) have a strong strategic relationship, as exemplified by the recent visit of the Egyptian foreign minister to Jerusalem.
Further, a high-level delegation of Saudi Arabian businessmen travelled to Jerusalem just three weeks ago.
It is also clear that relations both between Israel and Jordan and with the Emirates continue to grow – as reported regularly in the media.
Even Turkey is in the process of returning to normalised relations with Israel with the implementation of a plan for renewed relations, imminent.
In other geographic areas (traditionally among the closest of South African allies), Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has met with Prime Minister Netanyahu four times in the past year.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi places much emphasis on the strategic relationship with Israel and has already travelled to Israel in his term and intends on returning in 2017.
Modi prides his relationship with Israel and its contribution to his achievements in developing the state of Gujarat (which was ultimately the drawcard that swept him to power); not to mention the relationship with China who continues to invest in opportunities in Israel, while at the same time encouraging Israeli technological investment in China.
As these new and developing relationships between Asia and Africa continue to build, so the longstanding and trusted relationships between Israel and the US and Europe continue to strengthen.
It is clear from the above that Israel’s standing in the world has never been stronger and on this basis South African policy needs to be examined and revitalised.
Is it not time that the policy writers within (ANC headquarters) Luthuli House begin to engage in a manner that would contribute to building a more constructive foundation and engagement between the two countries?
The example being set by many of the Sunni states of the Muslim world is certainly a point of departure. These states have realised that Israel is actually a rock of stability in the Middle East and it is only through their constructive engagement and by understanding Israel’s right to safety and security, that they can hope to exact any concessions needed from both sides to resolve the deadlock in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
When it comes to South Africa-Israel relations, the relationship between these two countries prior to 1994 is always used by Israel’s detractors as a “reason” for the troubled relationship.
Yet, what we need to remember is that there was a process of reconciliation in South Africa that involved almost everyone for their involvement in apartheid South Africa affairs. South Africa has to move on from blaming Israel for its relationship with the pre-1994 government of this country. If one wants to blame Israel for her relationship with South Africa, then one must blame Saudi Arabia and Iraq for oiling the wheels of apartheid right up until the end.
I suggest that our Minster of International Relations and Co-operations, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, should travel to Israel, just as Egypt has recently done, or send a high-level business or political delegation just as Saudi Arabia has done.
We need to see senior members of the ANC ending their support of the BDS movement and to stop having ministers attend BDS events (as recently exhibited at the 702 Walk the Talk). These actions are seen to endorse BDS – a movement that has been proven to harbour a belief in the destruction of Israel through its hatred of anything Jewish or Israeli.
I urge a focus on a collaboration of what is good for South Africa – water and food security, health and medicine, business innovation, safety and security – areas in which Israel is a world leader.
Shannon Ebrahim, foreign editor of the Independent Group, recently asserted: “Africa mustn’t allow Israel to subvert its moral standing on Palestine.” Sadly, it is this outdated type of thinking that is perpetuating the conflict and stonewalling any progress and preventing South Africa from playing a meaningful role in the Mideast conflict’s resolution.
Most in the world see it; indeed, it is now time for South Africa to see it and do something about it!