Hamas had evolved from a group which just wanted Israel to disappear, to accepting that they can live side by side with one other, President Jacob Zuma said in Parliament on Thursday.
Zuma was explaining why South African officials and the ANC hosted Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in the country last month.
“There was a time when all Arabs were saying what the honourable member has just read, that Israel must disappear,” Zuma said after African Christian Democratic Party leader Kenneth Meshoe asked him why the government and the ANC appeared to be cosying up to the group.
“That time has passed. Now they accept the need for Israel to exist side by side,” said Zuma.
He said it was important to keep on talking to Hamas to “influence” people and to reconcile the different Palestinian groups – Fatah and Hamas.
“The ANC will never stop trying to influence people with logic to ‘the correct views and values’. You can’t ignore people with different views,” he said.
“People at time think that Hamas is very extreme. They forget that Israel is also very extreme and that’s why there has been an unending fight. That is why people must talk.”
South Africa has two envoys dealing with the crisis – former minister Zola Skweyiya and former deputy minister Aziz Pahad, who visited Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Iran, Turkey, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Syria for consultations.
A Hamas delegation visited South Africa in October and in a speech delivered in Cape Town on October 21, its feted leader Meshaal cautioned supporters against becoming “part of the mindset that kills in the name of religion, or ethnicity”.
“Differences in ethnicity and religion can never be resolved in killing and violence. A Muslim will never kill someone else because they have different ethnic backgrounds.
“We in Palestine do not fight Israeli occupation because they are Jews, we fight them because they are occupiers.”
State Security Minister David Mahlobo was with him on the stage, but the visit was overshadowed by the attempted storming of Parliament by students in the #feesmustfall protests.
Zuma said he spoke to both sides in the Israel-Palestine conflict and that this Sunday had a meeting with the Jewish Board of Deputies. News24