The South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) has suggested the South African government take an alternate approach to the crisis in Gaza, by adopting a better foreign policy towards Israel. According to the SAIRR, this would allow the country a better chance of brokering settlements in conflict situations between Israel and Palestine.
The institute’s CEO Frans Cronje questioned whether the country was missing an opportunity in its foreign policy with Israel that could help address issues like the current bombardment of the Gaza Strip.
He doubted a relatively small economy on the Southern tip of Africa would have much effect on Israel, if it took an approach centred around boycotts and sanctions. However, he said the country had one great asset after post-Apartheid, which was its track record in settling its own difficult politic history.
“I think, what controversially I describe as our somewhat one-sided approach to the current Israel/Palestine conflict, means that we are unable to play that role. The pity is that, we are unfortunately not in the position to be a peace-broker,” he told VOC In the Fast Lane.
He was confident the country could be a particularly effective peace-broker in the conflict, due to the ruling African National Congress’s (ANC) historically close ties with the Palestinian movement. He said that would put the country in an interesting position for Israel to use, in negotiate truces to conflicts and issues in the region.
With the Israeli ambassador to SA, Arthur Lenk, having been summoned by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) to explain Israel’s conduct, Cronje believed local government had already shown sufficient condemnation to the crisis. However, he suggested government consider an alternate, more pragmatic view to the situation.
“There is also view that can be taken, to say that the barrage of rocket fire landing on Israel does give them the right to defend its citizens. Now the mannerism in which it does that is the question. But if that’s not going to be part of our approach to foreign policy on Israel, we are never going to be in a position the exert influence,” he asserted.
Despite acknowledging the massive success and support the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement has received in the country, Cronje said that even they needed to go back and question whether the sanctions would have as big an impact on the Israeli regime, as they did on the South African apartheid.
“I admit that what we are suggesting is very controversial in a country that takes a very hard-line against Israel, but why we’d urge our critics to consider it is, it might just be the most constructive approach to actually start working towards long term solutions,” he suggested. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)