"Meeting with Mandela, Tutu or President Mbeki could lend visit certificate of respectability."
By DAVID E. KAPLAN
Having "got a toe in with the Russian invitation," Hamas "is now upsizing to a foothold with a South African visit," Telfed (the organization representing Southern Africans in Israel) vice chair Annette Milliner, told The Jerusalem Post this week.
Former South Africans living in Israel doubted South Africa's ability to influence Hamas's hard-line agenda.
Milliner had little confidence that South Africa would succeed as a peace broker. "I believe Hamas will capitalize on the PR component of the visit, particularly if it includes high profile meetings with people of the stature of former president Nelson Mandela or Nobel Peace laureate, Bishop Desmond Tutu."
"Yes, there is that concern," admits Steven Slom, Chairman of the Israel-South Africa Chamber of Commerce. "Meeting with Mandela, Tutu or President Mbeki would be regrettable as that could lend the visit a certificate of respectability.
"On the other hand, South Africa is the one country that does enjoy the moral authority to make it clear to Hamas, that in order to advance the peace process, it would have to recognize Israel, abide by existing agreements and of course, renounce violence."
Prof. Monty Zion (emeritus) of Tel Mond, questions whether this status has not lost some of its tarnish. "This is no longer the Mandela era. South Africa failed recently to publicly join most the Western counties in condemning the Iranian president's outrageous statements that "Israel has no right to exist and should be dismantled". It has also been out of step in supporting rogue regimes like Mugabe's Zimbabwe." Zion fears that South Africa could shift in the direction of its northern neighbor if it's not careful.
South Africa was one of five countries alongside Algeria, Libya, Indonesia and Belarus that abstained when the International Atomic Energy Agency voted last month to report Iran to the Security Council.
Is the overture to Hamas a sign of the company that South Africa now wants to be associated with or is South Africa merely seeking to enhance its status as a major player on the world stage? Buoyed by a resurgent economy and meteoric rise in tourism, "South Africa is looking for a commensurate status in world affairs," says Solly Sacks of Kochav Yair. A former Chairman of the South African Zionist Federation, and today Director of World Mizrachi, Sacks believes that "this is fair enough but an invitation to Hamas is a tragic mistake.
"South Africa in the past saw fit to invite the likes of Castro, Gaddafi and Arafat and nothing changed in their behavior following such visits. Isolation is the only way to deal with these guys. It was the imposition of sanctions that finally influenced Gaddafi to soften his position, and closer to home, chipped away at South Africa's old apartheid regime," noted Sacks.
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