The Foreign Ministry could not summon South Africa’s ambassador to protest
Pretoria’s intention to label settlement products differently from those made
within the Green Line because he turned off his phone, Foreign Ministry
spokesman Yigal Palmor said on Sunday.
As a result, Ismail Coovadia is
only expected to be called into the ministry on Monday.
South Africa’s stated intention to label Israeli products from the settlements
as crossing a red line, and said the move reflected the sour state of ties
between the two countries.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman was even
blunter, saying at a press conference with US Secretary for Homeland Security
Janet Napolitano that in recent years Pretoria has adopted a clear anti- Israel
“I am sorry that it is precisely South Africa, which suffered for
years from racism, that is adopting the same polices toward Israel,” he said.
Liberman said it was not coincidental that the 2001 Durban Conference, one of
the most anti-Israel forums ever, took place in in that country.
and Industry Minister Rob Davies announced in an official notice last week that
South African importers would no longer “incorrectly label products that
originate from the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) as products of Israel.”
Davies said that South Africa “recognizes the State of Israel only within the
borders demarcated by the United Nations (UN) in 1948.”
said, showed that Davies did not understand what was being discussed, since the
UN never demarcated borders in 1948.
Palmor said he hoped that Davies was
not referring to lines demarcated under the 1947 partition plan, a plan for a
truncated Israel accepted by the Jewish leadership at the time, but rejected by
the Arabs who then waged war on the fledgling state.
Palmor said the
South African government did not clarify in the new regulation what is defined
as made in Judea and Samaria, and that “the vague phrasing in the South African
regulation shows that there are no clear criteria, and therefore it will hurt
Israeli products in general.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon told
Army Radio that Israel wanted to “clarify the facts” with Coovadia, and
determine whether this was indeed new South African policy or merely a trial
balloon. He said that he spoke over the weekend at an event with the deputy
ambassador of South Africa who had not even heard of the order.
said that if indeed this was Pretoria’s intention, Israel would make clear that
such a practice was unacceptable in relations between friendly states, and also
contrasted with a current flourishing of ties with African states that he said
were keen to acquire Israeli know-how and technology.
officials said that similar comments about labeling products from the
settlements made by the Danish foreign minister were viewed as a trial balloon
that did not reflect the position of that country’s government.
EU since 2003 has required Israeli exporters to specify on their export invoices
where their products are made, so that products manufactured in settlements
would not enjoy the same duty-free status as those manufactured inside the Green
Line, the products themselves never bore any “settlement” label. A South African
policy to do just that would be a first.
One government official noted
wryly that it was interesting the South Africans were not considering specially
labeling products from Kashmir, Tibet, Gibraltar, the western Sahara, northern
Cyprus, Kosovo or any other number of areas where there are territorial
conflicts to alert sensitive South African consumers.
A spokesman from
the South African Department of International Relations refused to comment on
the issue, saying only that the ambassador will indeed arrive at the Foreign
Ministry in Jerusalem for consultations.
“This is a notice issued by the
Trade Ministry, therefore the matter lies within their responsibility,” he
Telfed – The South African Zionist Federation – Israel –
issued a statement saying it viewed the move with “great concern.” It urged the
South African government to support and facilitate a dialogue between Israel and
the Palestinians over the future of the West Bank, “rather than selecting Israel
for sanctions and boycotts which do more harm to both Palestinians and Israelis
than contribute to resolving the dispute.”
Mary Kluk, national chairwoman
of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, told The Jerusalem Post that it
was “regretful” that the South African authorities had politicized the
“We were anxious to learn that the decision was encouraged
apparently by lobby groups, without really consulting all the stake holders,
thereby transforming it into a political issue rather than a trade issue,” she
said. “As South African Jews it is important for us to be brought into the
Kluk said the Jewish community planned to submit
its reservations regarding the proposal in the coming days.
Danny Danon (Kadima) labeled Pretoria’s decision Palestinian extremist
incitement, and called on Liberman to tell South Africa’s ambassador that the
policy would have far-reaching repercussions.
“We should lower South
Africa’s diplomatic ranking and send a message to the whole world – Judea and
Samaria are an inseparable part of the State of Israel,” Danon said.
Arye Eldad (National Union) suggested that South African products sold in Israel
should be marked with a label that reads: “Warning! Product of South Africa.
History shows that anti-Semitism leads to the death of Jews.”
other side of the spectrum, MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’al) wrote a
letter thanking the South African ambassador for his country’s “brave and moral
stance” on settlements.
According to Tibi, the South African stance is
especially important, due to the country’s history, in which “a minority had a
dictatorship of a majority with no rights.
Tibi expressed hope that other
countries would follow South Africa’s lead. Last month, on a trip to Canada, he
called for a boycott of settlement goods.
Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On
said that Pretoria’s decision “proves that the world still differentiates
between Israel and the occupied territories and settlements.”
“This is an
important differentiation, because the minute the occupation swallows Israel,
the boycott will swallow us all,” Gal-On said.
“The only one who does not
make this difference is the Israeli government, which is delegitimizing
The Meretz leader said she does not buy products manufactured in
settlements, and has proposed bills to have such items specially labeled.