South Africa’s ruling party criticized over Hanegbi’s visit
The African National Congress was criticized this week by sources within the ruling party and external groups after two of its senior officials met with Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi in Johannesburg.
On Monday, Hanegbi met with veteran politician and Minister in the Presidential Office Jeff Radebe and with Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa.
Over the past five years, Israeli ministers have been unable to meet with their South African counterparts due to tensions over what the ruling party has deemed the “occupation of Palestine.”
The ANC National Executive Committee’s Subcommittee on International Relations said the meeting was held at the request of Hanegbi’s office.
“The delegation was received by Comrade Edna Molewa, chairwoman of the International Relations subcommittee, together with some of its members,” the ruling party said. “A number of issues were discussed, including a recommendation of the recently held National Policy Conference relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: namely the downgrading of South Africa’s Embassy in Israel. The subcommittee has informed the delegation that the recommendation stands as coming from NPC and that a decision in this regard would be taken at the ANC’s upcoming National Conference in December.”
The International Relations subcommittee further reiterated the ANC’s commitment to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and emphasized that urgent steps should be taken to resume talks between the two sides.
“It is in the interests of both Palestinians and Israelis that this protracted conflict should come to an end and a lasting solution found,” Molewa said.
She emphasized that “the ANC remains committed to playing a constructive role in the Middle East peace process and within the international relations arena in general; and as such, views regular engagement with actors across the political spectrum as key to its efforts.”
Despite the ruling party’s official statement, government spokesman Zizi Kodwa told South Africa’s The Citizen newspaper he was not impressed upon learning about the meeting.
The party had contacted Molewa and Radebe for answers, he said.
“We will await a report from the international relations subcommittee about how it could be that a subcommittee of the ANC has meetings with the Israeli government in view of the resolutions the ANC has about Israel,” Kodwa said. “We have got a very clear resolution about our relationship with them in both government and the party.”
The anti-Israel group South African Jews for a Free Palestine said it was disappointed the meeting took place and that the ANC “has not rejected the Israeli PR strongly or forcefully enough.”
“Why would the ANC have held such a meeting in the first place?” SAJFP spokesman Allan Horwitz asked. “How would the ANC view a meeting during the 1970s of, for example, an ally, Julius Nyerere’s Tanzania African National Union, meeting with a minister from Apartheid South Africa?
“The ANC and the larger liberation movement would rightfully have condemned such moves and likewise Palestinians – as well as human-rights groups supporting Jewish South Africans and our progressive Jewish Israeli allies – also condemn this.”
The SAJFP said it hoped the ANC’s International Relations Sub-Committee was not attempting to derail the recommendation from ANC branches for downgrading the status of the South African Embassy in Tel Aviv.
“The downgrade is a concrete step beyond rhetoric,” it said. “Israel must be held accountable for its crimes against the Palestinian people, and a clear message must be sent that there are no normal relations with an abnormal regime.”
Israeli Ambassador to South Africa Lior Keinan, who attended the meeting, said: “Israel and South Africa have a lot to discuss. We look forward to more dialogue and more South African involvement in the Middle East. The minister was well received in all the meetings in which we had open and very sincere dialogue about the present and future of diplomatic relations between Israel and South Africa.”
REGIONAL COOPERATION MINISTER Tzachi Hanegbi dances with traditional Zulu dancers during a Jewish community event in Johannesburg on Sunday night.