South African MPs meet with a delegation of MKs from the Labor, Zionist Union and Likud parties in Cape Town yesterday..
(photo credit: AYELLET BLACK)
The Jewish Board of Deputies and the South African Zionist Federation have deemed a recent visit by Knesset members to Cape Town as “successful,” despite the country’s Parliament snubbing the delegation.
The MKs, led by Labor’s Nachman Shai, included Amir Ohana and Nurit Koren from the Likud, and Zouheir Bahloul and Michal Biran from the Zionist Union.
The planned visit was rejected by a large contingent of parliamentarians, where the ruling African National Congress party holds the majority of seats.
“There was a planned visit by an Israeli delegation, but it was rejected by ANC members of Parliament,” said ANC parliamentary caucus spokeswoman Nonceba Mhlauli.
She said the MPs decided the delegation should not visit Parliament and if it did, they would not participate.
However, on Thursday, the Jewish Board of Deputies and the Zionist Federation said the delegation had met with leaders from across the South African political spectrum, including the ANC, the Democratic Alliance, Cope, the African Christian Democratic Party and the Inkatha Freedom Party.
“The delegation also met with Jewish and Christian organizations, as well as the business community. The SAJBD and SAZF, representing the overwhelming majority of South African Jewry, have long maintained that the relationship between South Africa and Israel is to the benefit of both countries,” the Jewish organizations said.
“South Africa, with its own history of successful conflict resolution, can play a unique role in helping to bring about a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. To this end, the meetings with the Knesset delegation were open and frank. All the interactions have been positive, constructive and engaging. Israel has offered to share its expertise in agriculture, water, hi-tech, cybersecurity, health and education. The delegation, in turn, was inspired by the lessons from South Africa’s transformation, and found the insights helpful,” they said.
Despite being rejected from visiting Parliament, the delegation met with several senior ANC members, including former interim president Kgalema Motlanthe and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, an ANC presidential candidate.
Deputy Ambassador to South Africa Ayellet Black said: “The visit has been really successful, there have been open channels of dialogue, and hopefully this will lead to a better understanding between Israel and South Africa.”
Prior to the delegation’s visit, several groups and individuals came out in support of Parliament’s decision to oppose the visit, including Nelson Mandela’s grandson, Mandla.
“In so doing, Parliament has stayed true to Madiba’s [Nelson Mandela’s] commitment to stand by the Palestinian cause until Palestine is free,” he said.
“We congratulate all who joined our call for Parliament to take a strong stand on this matter,” he continued. “We must not relent in our endeavors to garner support for the Palestinian cause, the return of six million Palestinian refugees, the return of illegally occupied Palestinian land, an end to illegal Israeli settlements and respect for international law and the many UN resolutions with respect to Jerusalem as the capital of a free Palestine.”
Several ANC parliamentary members also called for Israel’s embassy in South Africa to be closed and for its ambassador to be recalled.
The group also met with several opposition party leaders, including the Democratic Alliance’s Mmusi Maimane, who visited Israel earlier this year, as well as leaders from the African Christian Democratic Party, the Inkatha Freedom Party and Freedom Front Plus.
IFP spokesman Christian Temba Msimang said it “maintains that a solution [for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict] can only be achieved through constructive and peaceful engagement on both sides and that a two-state solution should continue to be pursued.”
The visit was a joint initiative of the Jewish Agency for Israel, the Knesset and the Foreign Ministry with the aim of improving ties between South Africa and Israel and gaining a better understanding of communities in the Diaspora.