Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (L) stands with South Africa's President Jacob Zuma at the Union Building in Pretoria November 26, 2014..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The South African Jewish Board of Deputies announced that it was “reassured” of the Palestinians’ commitment to a peaceful two-state solution following a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Pretoria.
“The South African Jewish leadership welcomes the confirmation by President Abbas that he and his government remain committed to a negotiated two-state solution to the conflict with Israel and to working with the Israeli government towards attaining that goal,” the SAJBD announced in a statement following the meeting at the Presidential Guest House on Wednesday.
From the beginning, Abbas spoke of his “willingness to make peace” and desire for “an end of [the] conflict,” SAJBD president Zev Krengel told The Jerusalem Post
on Thursday, adding that the Palestinian leader was “really committed to peace [as] the only way.”
“He recommitted to not escalating [recent tensions] into a religious war. He told us his frustrations. I challenged him and said what would you need from the Israelis to go back to reengage... and he said he just wants [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu to commit to a two-state solution [based on] 1967 borders with territorial swaps,” Krengel said.
Abbas has recently come under fire from Israel over allegations that a series of recent attacks in Jerusalem, including the shooting of Yehudah Glick, an advocate of Jewish prayer rights on the Temple Mount, and last week’s massacre in a Har Nof synagogue that left five dead, were the result of PA sponsored incitement.
Official PA television termed the two attackers in the Har Nof attack as martyrs.
The Netanyahu administration has called Abbas out for stating that the Temple Mount, which houses the Dome of the Rock and al-Aksa Mosque, was “contaminated” by “settlers and extremists” and should they enter the holy site, Palestinians would “protect” it.
Netanyahu accused Abbas with incitement for allegedly writing a letter of support to the Israeli-Arab family of the man who attempted to assassinate Glick.
“When we are trying to calm the situation, Abu Mazen [Abbas] sends condolences over the death of one who tried to perpetrate a reprehensible murder. The time has come for the international community to condemn him for such actions,” Netanyahu said.
Abbas subsequently met with leaders of the South African Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement.
Their discussions including upcoming campaigns to boycott Israel, with Abbas presenting members of the organization with a “Path to Freedom” gold medallion.
BDS South Africa hopes to implement a national boycott of settlement goods “and now with the Palestinian president’s support we trust that the South African government will speed up the issuing of such guidelines against Israel,” said Kwara Kekana, a representative of the group.
Krengel downplayed the meeting and said that Abbas came to the local Jewish leadership first, adding that “as with any politician he will talk with his constituents.”
David Hersch, the former chairman of the South African Zionist Federation in Capetown, who now heads the South African Israel Public Affairs Committee, was highly critical of the SAJBD, writing that Krengel “was undermining Israel and playing into the hands of her enemy.”
“Krengel gave the distinct impression that Abbas is the willing peace partner and it is Israel that is not. That is not the case at all and is a great disservice to Israel, undermining its government and for all the lip service, is disloyal and treasonous.”
Michael Jankelowitz, the former foreign media spokesman for the Jewish Agency and a South African national, called Krengel’s visit “despicable.”
“This on the same day that the shiva period of mourning was marked for the four unarmed innocent rabbis, murdered in their Jerusalem synagogue during the morning Shaharit prayers in cold blood by two armed Palestinian Arab terrorists,” he said.
“These same Jewish leaders pretend to be fighting BDS and other anti-Israel activities all supported by Mahmoud Abbas and the leadership of the Palestinian Authority. Unfortunately this meeting has cast a dark cloud on the current weak leadership of South African Jewry.”Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.