No ban on Israel visits

2013-11-08 00:00

CAPE TOWN — There is no ban on government officials travelling to Israel, Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane said yesterday.

“Government has not imposed a ban on travel to the state of Israel by government officials,” he told journalists in Cape Town following cabinet’s fortnightly meeting on Wednesday.

Cabinet’s pronouncement on the matter follows statements by International Relations and Co-operation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and her deputy minister Ebrahim Ebrahim last week that 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,” Nkoana-Mashabane said at the time, referring to the situation in Palestine.

Her 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”.

Chabane yesterday moved to reassure South Africa’s Jewish community, insisting they “have nothing to fear”.

He said cabinet was concerned about public statements regarding the country’s Jewish community.

The situation was compounded by Deputy Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Marius Fransman, who earlier in a public tirade said most of the land in the Western Cape belonged to whites and Jews.

“Cabinet recognises the right of the Palestinian people for self determination and the right of Israel to exist alongside the state of Palestine. Their endeavours to find a solution to the conflict which will be just should continue.

“The South African Jewish community should have nothing to fear,” he said.

It is not clear if cabinet will discipline the ministers for their comments against Israel and South African jews.

Chabane said he could not comment on whether cabinet will discipline the ministers, but he had discussed the matter with the executive director at the South African Jewish Board of Deputies David Jacobson, who said the council was satisfied with cabinet’s reaction.

Jacobson said the board had not discussed the matter with the government, but had laid a charge against Fransman at the Human Rights Commission.

“We cannot comment on his [Fransman’s] case.

“We undertook not to discuss the matter until the investigation is completed,” said Jacobson.

Arthur Lenk, Israel’s ambassador in South Africa, said he was satisfied with the cabinet’s explanation.

“Co-operation between Israel and South Africa can benefit both countries.”

The ACDP and VF+ have meanwhile expressed their dissatisfaction with cabinet’s statements.

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