Jerusalem Report

A pity we didn’t listen

The former South African president wanted good ties with Israel, dependent on freedom for the Palestinians.

Ehud Barak and Nelson Mandela at the prime minister’s offices in Jerusalem, 1999
Photo by: REUTERS
In the summer of 1992, a few months after Yitzhak Rabin’s election victory, I was appointed ambassador to South Africa. Just four days after my arrival the phone rang at six o’clock in the morning. It was Nelson Mandela himself on the line. Nearly three years out of prison, he was preparing for office in the long run-up to South Africa’s first fully democratic election. “I hear Israel is changing its policy,” he said. “Let’s talk.”

In that same week the Rabin government had abrogated the law prohibiting meetings with PLO officials and, after months of secret negotiations with the Palestinians, Israel signed the Oslo Declaration of Principles.

Read More..., the online edition of the Jerusalem Post Newspaper - the most read and best-selling English-language newspaper in Israel. For analysis and opinion from Israel, the Jewish World and the Middle East. offers expert and in-depth reporting from Israel, the Jewish World and the Middle East, including diplomacy and defense, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the Arab Spring, the Mideast peace process, politics in Israel, life in Jerusalem, Israel's international affairs, Iran and its nuclear program, Syria and the Syrian civil war, Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israel's world of business and finance, and Jewish life in Israel and the Diaspora.

All rights reserved © The Jerusalem Post 1995 - 2013