Diplomacy

Israel, South Africa to Strengthen Ties in Agriculture, Science and Technology

Israel and South Africa have reached an agreement to improve diplomatic ties and increase cooperation on issues such as agriculture, trade, science, and technology, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on Sunday following the visit of its director general, Dore Gold, to South Africa.

Israel and South Africa are actively engaged in a wide range of fields of cooperation and numerous projects which implement Israeli agricultural, water and medical technologies in South Africa. These projects not only directly benefit the local population by improving public health and food security, but they also create jobs and business opportunities, including the export of premium agricultural produce to Europe. Mutual trade between the two countries amounts today to about one billion dollars, and significant opportunities for further growth are expected to contribute to the economies of both countries.

Israel looks forward to working with South Africa in combining our rich experience in the field of development, in order to promote sustainable growth, development of water resources, adaptation to climate change, food security, civil society empowerment and prosperity in Africa at large.

During his trip, Gold met with Ambassador Jerry Matthews Matjila, South Africa’s international relations director general, marking the highest level of dialogue between the two nations in over 10 years.

Israel’s diplomatic outreach to South Africa is part of a broader initiative announced earlier this month by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to engage African nations. Netanyahu is set to travel to the continent this summer– the first sitting Israeli prime minister to do so since Yitzhak Shamir in 1987– around the 40th anniversary of Operation Entebbe, when Israeli commandos rescued over 100 hostages held by pro-Palestinian terrorists in Uganda’s Entebbe airport.

South Africa has in recent years been regarded as a hub of anti-Israel campaigns, particularly the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. A report released earlier this week by the AMCHA Initiative found significant statistical correlations between the BDS movement and anti-Semitism on American campuses. Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin commented on the inappropriateness of the BDS movement’s ‘Israel Apartheid Week’ campaign, writing, “Ironically, in the real world, the post-apartheid government of South Africa wants closer relations with Israel on trade, water and technology. … Perhaps the BDS movement, which drew inspiration from international boycotts against apartheid South Africa, might take a break from its anti-Israel activities to learn what actual apartheid looks like.”

Kenneth Meshoe, a member of South Africa’s parliament, wrote in 2013 that “As a black South African who lived under apartheid, this system was implemented in South Africa to subjugate people of color and deny them a variety of their rights. In my view, Israel cannot be compared to apartheid in South Africa. Those who make the accusation expose their ignorance of what apartheid really is.”

More recently, Meshoe argued against efforts to portray Israel as an apartheid state in the video embedded below.

[Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs ]