No ban on official Israel visits - Cabinet

2013-11-07 19:54
(Picture: AP)

(Picture: AP)

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Cape Town - The government sought to reassure the Jewish community on Thursday of its place in South Africa, saying there was no ban on officials travelling to Israel.

"Government has not imposed a ban on travel to the State of Israel by government officials," Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane told journalists in Cape Town following Cabinet's fortnightly meeting on Wednesday.

However, he said recent tensions went beyond questions of a travel ban to Pretoria's policy on the Middle East, and therefore Cabinet felt it needed to reiterate South Africa's stated position that it supported both Palestinian self-determination and Israel's right to statehood.

"We are not only dealing with the issue of a travel ban... The concerns raised arise out of the Middle East problem," Chabane said.

He said he had met the SA Jewish Board of Deputees several times to state the government's position, but conceded that this was prior to a furore created by comments by International Relations Deputy Minister Marius Fransman.

"South African Jews are as South African as we are and they have nothing to fear," he said.

Last month, Fransman told journalists that Cape Town was ethnically divided if one looked at land ownership patterns.

He said "the reality is... 98%... of the land owners and property owners actually is the white community and, in particular, also people in the Jewish community".

‘Anti-Semitic remarks’

The statement caused upset within the ANC, with MP Ben Turok calling for Fransman to be disciplined for "anti-Semitic" remarks.

Last week, more questions arose when International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said South African ministers would not visit Israel.

"We have agreed to slow down and curtail senior leadership contact with that regime until things begin to look better," she said.

Chabane refused to say whether Fransman or any other minister had been rebuked, relying on the fact that he was addressing a briefing on Cabinet, and explaining that "Cabinet cannot be dealing with individual Cabinet ministers".

Nkoana-Mashabane's comments provoked former Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman to warn the local Jewish community that South Africa was "creating an anti-Israel and anti-Semitic atmosphere".

In a widely reported statement, he warned that "a pogrom against Jews is only a matter of time".

The Cabinet statement responded to this with an explicit assurance that South African policy remained unchanged.

Read more on:    anc  |  ben turok  |  marius fransman  |  maite nkoana-mashabane  |  collins chabane  |  cape town  |  israel  |  parliament 2013

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