DA, Palestinian embassy in fresh spat over Maimane's Israel visit

Maimane meets Israeli prime minister Netanyahu.
Maimane meets Israeli prime minister Netanyahu.

Cape Town - The Palestinian embassy in South Africa and the Democratic Alliance have got into a war of words, with the embassy claiming it was not informed about party leader Mmusi Maimane's visit to Israel last week.

The embassy issued a media statement on Monday, claiming that the DA had been disingenuous in suggesting that Maimane was meeting leaders of both Israel and Palestine during his visit on Thursday.

"The embassy of the State of Palestine would like to point out that the DA did not inform the embassy about Mr Maimane's visit to the State of Palestine, and that the embassy became aware of the DA leader's visit through the South African media.

"The embassy categorically did not have any role in the recent [visit], beside that the embassy communicated with the Palestinian minister of foreign affairs in Ramallah City and were officially informed by the ministry that no one of PA (Palestinian Authority) officials or leadership were to meet with Mr Maimane."

'Written proof' from President's office

However, the DA has strongly disagreed with the embassy's statement, saying the party had it on record from Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas's office of Maimane's planned meeting.

The party has released the written exchanges.

"South Africans don't require a visa to travel to the region, [so] of course the embassy wasn't contacted.

"We communicated directly with the president's office," national spokesperson Phumzile Van Damme told News24 on Monday.

"The embassy says they contacted the foreign minister's office to confirm? Why didn't they contact the president's office?"

Van Damme said Maimane's office was in touch with the South African embassy's office in Ramallah and the office of the Palestinian Authority's president. She repeated that the proposed meeting with Abbas was confirmed, but then cancelled.

"We're happy to appraise the Palestinian embassy with facts. They are welcome to contact the leader's office because they are clearly ill-informed."

Last week, Maimane met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Nethanyau during his visit, and said he had requested to meet Abbas as well.

He instead met with Palestinian officials after the meeting with Abbas was cancelled due to a scheduling conflict.

*Note: A previous version of this story reported photographic evidence had emerged of Maimane and the DA delegation meeting Palestinian Authority officials. It was in fact a meeting with a commercial company called Rawabi.

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