PRETORIA – Science and Technology Minister Daniel Herschkowitz on Wednesday rounded up a week-long visit to South Africa.
During his visit, he met with the country’s deputy minister of science, Derek Hanekom.
Herschkowitz described the meeting as “warm and friendly” in spite of the growing tension between the two countries.
Herschkowitz had been invited to South Africa by the Magbit, the Zionist Federation and other Jewish organizations, celebrating this week the Mizrahi religious Zionist organization’s 80 years of activity.
Throughout the past few days the minister met with hundreds of leaders within the Jewish community, and with many business people and South African hi-tech representatives, interested in exploring stronger relations with Israeli companies and research institutes.
Alon Yunyan, Herschkowitz’s special adviser, told The Jerusalem Post that the minister also met with academics and representatives of South African universities – meetings which were all conducted in a cordial and friendly manner.
Prof. Herschkowitz arrived to Johannesburg last Friday, right into a stormy diplomatic weather: Johannesburg’s University of the Witswatersrand Student Association adopted last week a resolution calling for an academic and cultural boycott against Israel. The resolution calls for Wits academic institutions to join the boycott and to promote the annual Israeli Apartheid Week. The resolution, originated by the SA Muslim student association and the pro-Palestinian forum BDS, has added much tension to the already cool bilateral relations.
This said, Herschkowitz emphasized that his meeting with the deputy minister was very successful.
“We managed to break the ice and to speak openly, in a friendly and constructive manner.”
The two men discussed the situation in the Middle East and bilateral relations. Hershkowitz invited his colleague to visit Israel. Hanekom spoke of his last visit to Israel several years ago – as a young volunteer at Kibbutz Tzora, near Beit Shemesh. He expressed his willingness to come again, in order to further South African- Israeli collaboration.
Israeli diplomats told the Post that the visit of the minister proved helpful and productive in working towards better relations between Pretoria and Jerusalem. Deputy Minister for Foreign Relations Ebrahim Ebrahim, speaking about the Middle East in Johannesburg, said on Monday that although South Africa fully supports the Palestinian cause, one should not interpret this support in any way as being anti-Israel.