Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi shakes hands with the ANC’s International Relations Subcommittee chairwoman Edna Molewa at their meeting in South Africa last week.
(photo credit: FACEBOOK)
Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi said on Wednesday that his meeting in South Africa last week with African National Congress officials was a preplanned event, organized in advance by the Israel Embassy, and not a “chance and unplanned encounter,” as claimed by South Africa’s ruling party.
Hanegbi met with Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa and Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe, among others.
According to an op-ed published in South African media on Tuesday, Molewa, who is also the chairwoman of ANC’s International Relations Subcommittee, claimed that “this was an unplanned, unscheduled, chance encounter.”
Hanegbi – who stressed that he does not want to “contribute to the [internal] tension” that Molewa is facing from the ANC – told The Jerusalem Post
on Wednesday that this was not the case.
“I don’t understand what happened.... We had three good meetings with three senior government officials, including Edna Molewa.
The meeting was prearranged and organized by the Israel Embassy – it was not coincidental, and I don’t know why she [Molewa] is now saying it was unscheduled.”
In July, the ANC called for the downgrade of the South African Embassy in Israel to a “liaison office,” saying it was “concerned by the lack of commitment from Israel to finding a resolution to the Palestinian question.”
Molewa’s International Relations Subcommittee is the party’s branch that will discuss and make the decision on the proposed downgrade, during the ANC’s National Policy Conference next month.
Hanegbi said that it was for this reason that he and the Israel Embassy requested the meeting.
“[During the meeting] they emphasized their sympathy for the Palestinian cause but also said they believed in Israel’s right to security....
I don’t know why they [now] oppose us,” he said.
Hanegbi also voiced that “there is a concern that the downgrade may happen, but we will have to wait.
“If the decision is made [to downgrade at December’s meeting], it will not be the policy of the government. The ANC [as a political party] cannot make the decision to cut ties with Israel – it’s the government’s decision,” Hanegbi added.
In the opinion piece, Molewa said it was “mischievous to infer that this engagement implies that the ANC’s support for the Palestinian cause is wavering.”
In response to this statement, Hanegbi said that “no one had claimed that this meeting was a change in the ANC’s policy.”
Molewa added in the op-ed that it was “regrettable” that the Israel Embassy in South Africa had described the “last-minute meeting” as “interministerial” in its media releases and on its social media. “This was not the case.
“The ANC reiterated its support for a free Palestine and for an end to the illegal and unjust occupation of all Palestinian land. This is not an ANC position that is articulated behind closed doors – it is well known and is both principled and consistent,” she insisted.
“The visiting delegation expressed its concerns about the recommendation... and a robust engagement took place,” she claimed.
“It was put to the delegation that only the ANC’s national conference in December could take a final resolution on the matter. The delegation was advised that they could submit written inputs to the task team for the ANC national conference on this issue as well as on other matters,” Molewa said.
Hanegbi highlighted that “we [Israel] are not indifferent to the decision to downgrade the embassy; we don’t want this to happen.
“We are happy to have dialogue, and we believe South Africa is an important country,” he concluded.