South African cabinet: No ban on government travel to Israel

Week after International Relations Minister says ministers not going to Israel as a sign of solidarity with the Palestinians.

November 7, 2013 21:55
1 minute read.
South Africa's Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane

South Africa's Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane. (photo credit: Reuters)

The South African government announced on Wednesday that it does not have a ban on government officials travelling to Israel, a week after International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said the country’s ministers were not going to Israel as a sign of solidarity with the Palestinians.

“Government has not imposed a ban on travel to the State of Israel by government officials,” the cabinet’s official communiqué stated.

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Although there has not been a high-level South African ministerial visit to Israel for some four years, The Jerusalem Post learned that such a visit is currently being discussed.

Nkoana-Mashabane’s statement elicited a harsh response from future foreign minister Avigdor Liberman, who said that the South African government was creating an anti- Semitic atmosphere there, that pogroms were just a matter of time, and that the country’s Jews should immediately leave and come to Israel.

According to the statement following the government meeting, “The cabinet expressed concern about the statements in the public regarding the South African Jews.” The statement also said that “the South African Jewish community should have nothing to fear.”

“Cabinet recognizes the right of the Palestinian people for self-determination, and the right of Israel to exist alongside the state of Palestine,” the statement said. “Their endeavors to find a solution to the conflict which will be just should continue.”

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies and the South African Zionist Federation issued a statement on Monday expressing outrage over Nkonana-Mashabane’s statement, but also saying that Liberman’s comments were “alarmist and inflammatory.”

According to the statement, South Africa “has consistently been shown to have very low rates of anti-Semitism, both numerically and in terms of the severity of the attacks. We have constitutional bodies to ensure that anti-Semitism remains low in this country. We have not seen the violent anti-Semitic incidents that are manifesting in Europe and most recently in Australia. It is misguided and irresponsible to assert that their consequences might be so extreme as to lead to actual pogroms against the Jewish community.”

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