First-ever Knesset delegation meets South African political players

The first-ever Knesset delegation to South Africa met with a number of politicians as well as local Jewish community leaders.

August 28, 2017 16:55
2 minute read.
Members of Knesset and South African Jewish communal officials meet with South African politicians

Members of Knesset and South African Jewish communal officials meet with former South African cabinet minister and Chairperson of the African Union Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in Johannesburg. (photo credit: COURTESY OF THE EMBASSY OF ISRAEL IN PRETORIA)

A Knesset delegation to South Africa met with politicians from the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party as well as the largest opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, on their visit to Johannesburg and Cape Town.

The Jewish Agency-sponsored trip, which ended last week, was meant to familiarize the MKs with South African Jewry, but also included meetings with high-level politicians. MK Nachman Shai of the Zionist Union led the delegation, along with Zouheir Bahloul and Michal Biran from his party, and Nurit Koren and Amir Ohana of the Likud.

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Israeli lawmakers have visited South Africa before, including for former president Nelson Mandela’s funeral, and have met with South African MPs, though this was the first official Knesset delegation.

The MKs met with former minister and African Union chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini- Zuma, who hopes to run as the ANC’s candidate for president, as well as former South African president Kgalema Motlanthe.

The ANC’s parliamentary faction chose to snub the Israeli legislators, who visited parliament and met with MPs from the DA, Inkatha Freedom Party, the Freedom Front Plus, the Congress of the People and the African Christian Democratic Party.

ANC politicians and activists often speak in favor of boycotting Israel, even though the South African government, which is led by the ANC, has ties with the Jewish State.

The lawmakers also held meetings with opposition leader Mmusi Maimane and Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba, both of the DA.

The delegation held extensive meetings with local Jewish community leaders in Johannesburg and Cape Town, as well as Jewish high school students and youth movement leaders, and participated in a Shabbat at the Gardens Shul in Cape Town, the oldest synagogue in South Africa.

Shai said that “the delegation’s visit and meetings with the Jewish community dealt with the ties that bind the Jewish people worldwide, including Israel and the South African Jewish community. The community’s devotion and attachment to Israel left a deep impression on us. South African Jewry’s connection to Zionism and to Israel are the community’s hallmarks, positioning it in a place of honor among the world’s Jewish communities.”

Jewish Agency secretary-general Josh Schwartz, who accompanied the delegation, said the trip was part of the Jewish Agency’s efforts to bring MKs and other Israeli leaders to Jewish communities around the world.

“These visits are critical to strengthening the bonds with Israel and to deepening Israeli leaders’ understanding of the challenges facing the Diaspora,” he said. 

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