Mzansi Afrika

From Johannesburg South Africa, a window on the world

Monday, August 02, 2004

SA/Israel

Ha'aretz has this story about Major General Fumanekile Gqiba, the new South African ambassador to Israel. He seems moderate and thoughtful, or one could be cynical and observe that for now he is being fairly non-committal on some issues. He sidesteps the apartheid analogy saying "I'm on a learning curve. I would only like to comment on that when I've thoroughly studied the situation. I only know Tel Aviv and Jerusalem." On suicide bombings, "Today, we are the only country, on moral grounds, which is able to say to the Palestinians, `You guys, we don't think your strategy of using suicide bombers is justified.' It is terrorism. It is not accepted by international law. It has nothing to do with the military code. We have said this openly. We don't support suicide bombings. We are clear on this."

He makes an interesting comparison between the Palestinian military struggle and the ANC military struggle for liberation, ""The military aspect of the struggle cannot become an end in itself. It has to be a means to a political goal. Whatever we did on the military side was to force the regime toward the ultimate goal - the political one, of negotiation. That's where the difference is. We were led by politicians. Not the military leading the struggle. The military element must not become an end in itself ... For the Palestinians, the military element has become the thing. The Palestinians need to pause. Every bomb that kills civilians is counterproductive [for them]. It undermines them. At this point, they should say, `We need to sit down. We need to talk.'"

On Yasser Arafat however, he feels that, "But at this point in time Arafat is the leader and the Israeli state should not try to marginalize him. He is a prisoner. How do you ask a prisoner to take charge of security? It is better to negotiate with the devil you know. Arafat is part of the solution, not of the problem ... He recognizes the State of Israel. They must empower him."

Personally, I think that Arafat would be perfectly content to see Israel dismantled and at most go for a one state solution with equal Israeli/Palestinian powersharing. I also don't believe that Arafat has genuinely tried to stop terrorism.

All in all, so far it seems like his appointment could be a positive step towards restoring South Africa's relationship with Israel which has become more than a little chilly of late. He is, at any rate far less radical than Aziz Pahad our deputy minister of foreign affairs, but at the end of the day he is an ANC man through and through and would probably toe the party line.

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