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Zuma portrays SA as an honest broker




The above Youtube video from the SABC feed and the story was written from the Enca version. The questions relating to the Middle East began at one minute and ten seconds on the Enca video, and will probably be at least five minutes later (01:15:00) on this version

Last week Thursday President Jacob Zuma was in the National Assembly for his final President’s Question Session for 2015. He used some 20 minutes of the 114 minute-session explaining government’s position on peace in the Middle East and the recent ANC-Hamas interaction.

On Hamas, his major message was that “South Africa strongly believes that all Palestinian parties need to unite… in order to effectively negotiate with the State of Israel for a viable and united Palestinian state. In so doing,” he said SA “supports reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.”

In answer to a question by Rev Kenneth Meshoe of the ACDP, Zuma said that SA “supports international efforts aimed at the establishment of a viable Palestinian state, existing side-by-side with Israel” However, he added, “we think” class=”sfImageWrapper”>ZumaZuma endeavoured to present the SA government as being impartial in the matter – and that the country would “continue to play a constructive role in the peace process”.

RIGHT: President Jacob Zuma in Parliament last week

Meshoe asked: “The Hamas charter explicitly stipulate… and I quote: ‘There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are a waste of time and a farce.’ Hamas is an Islamist extremist movement committed to extending the global Islamic caliphate through radical violent means to every inch of Israel and beyond,” and does not share the values of democracy, freedom of religion and gender equality that SA does.

Zuma responded by saying that the situation in the Middle East with regard to Israel and the Arabs in general had evolved over a period of time. “There was a time when all Arabs were saying… that Israel must disappear, but hat time has passed. Now they [Hamas] accept the need for Israel to exist side-by-side.”

Zuma said that when the ANC [recently] met Hamas, Hamas “did not present that position to the ANC. They presented a position that accepts that there must be a peaceful solution there. That’s what they are saying.” He questioned when the Hamas charter had been written and said he believed Hamas’ policies had changed over time.

The opposition benches took Zuma’s claims of the ANC government’s impartiality and thus being able to be an honest broker in the Middle East, with a pinch of salt.

One opposition member asked: “In light of the complex nature of the conflict… don’t you agree that picking a side compromises South Africa’s ability to play a crucial role in the future, in assisting to resolve this crisis, which requires us to be objective?”

On the issue of picking sides, Zuma replied: “We are not picking sides… we have a very clear policy on this. We’ve met Israelis. Many times… discussed the issues. They themselves have said they believe SA has a role to play to help them. To help both sides. They even agreed that meeting the Palestinians is very important for South Africa.

“We now have met Hamas. We have met other groupings. So we are not choosing sides.”

Zuma added that “both sides, by the way, accept that South Africa has a role to play to help them arrive at a conclusion of their conflict”.

It is for this reason that SA is viewed by both sides to be better placed to be able to assist in the peaceful resolution of the conflict.

At the end of the debate, an ANC back-bencher asked whether “the continuous building of illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied territories is a hindrance to reconciliation”.

Zuma: “Yes, Definitely. It is a hindrance. And it is, in fact, not helping the process to move forward… That’s part of what we discuss with Israel.”

The president said he believed Israel would retreat from where it was, that it would go back to the 1967 borders and show preparedness to live side by side with the Palestinian state.

“At the beginning of the existence of Israel, the issue of Israel’s defending itself was because all the Arab governments then had the view that it must not be there,” said the president. The Arab countries did not want Israel to exist. “And we all said they need to exist.”

But times had changed, he pointed out, and attitudes too. At times, said Zuma, people are one-sided and think that Hamas is more extreme. “They forget that Israel also is very extreme. And that’s why there’s been a non-ending fight.”


    President Zuma was also the keynote speaker at the SA Jewish Board of Deputies’ biennial national elective conference on Sunday. CLICK HERE to listen to podcasts of his and all the other speakers – compliments of 101.9 ChaiFM


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