NEWS & ANALYSIS

South Africa should not try to isolate Israel - FW de Klerk

Former President says SACP and COSATU calls for expulsion of ambassador Arthur Lenk are disturbing

STATEMENT BY FORMER PRESIDENT FW DE KLERK ON CALLS BY THE SACP AND COSATU FOR THE EXPULSION OF THE ISRAELI AMBASSADOR

I am disturbed by the call of the SACP and COSATU for the expulsion of the Israeli Ambassador following Israel’s refusal to grant Minister Blade Nzimande a visa to hold discussions with the Palestinian authorities in Ramallah. 

Although I agree with the Jewish Board of Deputies that the visa refusal was regrettable, the limitation of contact between South Africa and Israel would not be in the interests of those who still support a peaceful and negotiated solution to the problems of Israel/Palestine.

However, after the South African government’s refusal last year of a visa to the Dalai Lama - a quintessential man of peace - Dr Nzimande is hardly in a position to preach to others regarding their visa policies.

The SACP call is the latest salvo in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign that seeks to limit South Africa’s relations with Israel. The campaign is misguided and will certainly not help to promote a peaceful solution to the Israeli/Palestinian imbroglio.

South Africa’s relationship with Israel is of great significance to the search for a peaceful and negotiated solution. 25 years ago we South Africans showed that a problem that was just as intractable as that now confronting Israel and Palestine could be solved peacefully, through compromise and negotiations. We still present a model that can help to inspire others dealing with what they regard as existential challenges.

Despite the many problems that still confront us, South Africa has reaped an enormous peace dividend. We are certainly in a far better position than we would have been had we not decided to hammer out a peaceful agreement that addressed the concerns of all the parties to our conflict.

We should be doing everything we can to continue to share our experience with divided societies everywhere - and especially with Israel/Palestine. Each conflict situation is, of course, different - but there are some factors that are common to most such problems:

- core interests cannot be achieved and preserved by the use of force; 

- the reasonable interests and security of all parties must be assured; 

- all parties that can affect the outcome of negotiations must be included in the peace process; and

- there can be no long term peace without justice for all.

Instead of trying to isolate Israel - South Africa should be doing everything in its power to engage with all the parties involved. Even more importantly, all South Africans should redouble their efforts to assure the long-term success of our own peace process by solemnly honouring the agreements that are embodied in our Constitution. If we fail to do so we can hardly expect other divided societies to regard us as an example worthy of following.

Statement issued by the FW de Klerk Foundation, April 29 2015