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RIGHT TO REPLY | Cyril Ramaphosa’s welcome to Israel is right ...

Ideas

RIGHT TO REPLY | Cyril Ramaphosa’s welcome to Israel is right for SA

SA Zionist Federation responds to Sunday Times Daily editorial ‘Grow a backbone and be decisive on Israel, Mr President’

Rowan Polovin
Miss SA 2021 Lalela Mswane has been criticised in some circles for participating in the Miss Universe pageant in Israel.
ROCKING THE BOAT Miss SA 2021 Lalela Mswane has been criticised in some circles for participating in the Miss Universe pageant in Israel.
Image: Supplied/Yolanda van der Stoep

The South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) is encouraged by the government’s acceptance of the credentials of Israeli ambassador Eliav Belotsercovsky on January 25. While we see this as a practical and positive step forward in increasing ties between the governments of SA and Israel, there has been a clear lack of consistency among some within the ruling party, who use and abuse the Israel issue for their domestic political agendas. 

From the ANC’s 2017 conference condemning and attempting to downgrade relations with Israel to the debacle and attacks on Miss SA Lalela Mswane, these divisions are driven by small, extremist anti-Israel groups and outmoded anti-West ideologies. The ruling party is simply out of touch with reality. The Arab world and Africa, from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to Sudan, are opening up to Israel in unprecedented ways through the Abraham Accords, and SA ought to pay attention to and benefit from these trends. 

It is time for the government to clearly indicate its support for Israel and acknowledge its place as the only democracy in the Middle East. Israel has much to offer SA, being at the forefront of global innovation and technology in areas in which SA desperately needs help. Israeli companies are leading the fight against poverty, lack of access to water and agricultural efficiency. Just recently, an Israeli company restored drinking water from one of the most populated dams in the country, in Mahikeng, North West. Also, it offers world-leading solutions in many of the socioeconomic areas in which SA is struggling and is a world leader in the technological, cybersecurity and infrastructure sectors.

We are well aware of the dichotomy the president faces. Should he appease the radical elements of the party who myopically oppose Israel at every opportunity, or should he do what is right for the citizens of SA and take advantage of what Israel has and is willing to offer? Is this country going to make itself irrelevant in international relations or dehyphenate the Israel-Palestinian issue and benefit from working with Israel and the Palestinians? 

The mutually beneficial relationship that should flourish from this paradigm shift requires the involvement and commitment of all in government. A good start would be to pull back on Dirco’s obsessive opposition to Israel’s observer status to the AU and welcome the positive role the country plays on the continent. 

We urge the president and our government to circumvent voices steeped in the past and continue forging ahead with improving relations with Israel, which can only benefit the cause of peace and SA’s future. 

Rowan Polovin is national chairperson of the South African Zionist Federation.

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