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South African Jews should emigrate to Israel as soon as possible because a pogrom here is “only a matter of time”, says former Israeli foreign minister and deputy prime minister Avigdor Lieberman.
He was responding to International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane saying South African ministers did not visit Israel and would not until the situation in that country had improved.
“Ministers of South Africa do not visit Israel currently. We have agreed to slow down and curtail senior leadership contact with that regime until things begin to look better.
“The struggle of the people of Palestine is our struggle,” Nkoana-Mashabane was reported as saying by Sapa.
Lieberman said the South African government had created an anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic atmosphere.
“I call on all Jews who still live there to come to Israel as soon as possible and without delay, before it is too late,” he wrote on his Facebook page.
The SA Jewish Board of Deputies and SA Zionist Federation said Lieberman’s comments were “alarmist and inflammatory”.
“It is misguided and irresponsible to assert that their consequences might be so extreme as to lead to actual pogroms against the Jewish community.”
But the two organisations expressed “surprise and outrage” at Nkoana-Mashabane’s comments.
“The South African government has often expressed its support for a negotiated, two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. South Africa, with its own history of successful conflict-resolution both at home and abroad, can potentially play a valuable role in making this a reality,” they said in a joint statement.
“To do so, however, it must strive to engage with and learn from all parties involved.”
They said Nkoana-Mashabane’s comments contradicted previous assurances that the government wanted to play a role in helping Israelis and Palestinians resolve their |differences.
“They are further inconsistent with South African foreign policy in general, which is not to boycott other governments but rather to continually engage with them. For Israel alone to be excluded from such a policy amounts to clear discrimination against the Jewish state. Such a policy serves also to undermine this country’s credibility as a factor in global conflict resolution.”
Israeli embassy spokesman Michael Freeman said Nkoana-Mashabane’s comments were “disappointing”.
“South Africa has an important role to play. A one-sided message hurts negotiations. It has the effect of weakening the important legacy of South Africa. It also doesn’t match the interactions we’ve had with South African |officials.”
He said Israel was intent on building a better relationship with South Africa.
ANC MP Ben Turok said Lieberman was “clutching at straws” to suggest South African Jews move to Israel.
“Israel is in far greater danger from surrounding states... this would be going into a danger zone. If he needs to increase the Jewish population then he better find a different solution.”
He said that South African Jews lived a “very safe and secure” existence under the ANC government.