Can Restoring Israel’s Relations with South Africa Prove a Key to Breaking BDS?

June 20 2017

Last month, Benjamin Netanyahu traveled to Liberia to meet with a number of West African heads of state; he made a similar visit to East African capitals last year. The trips are part of the prime minister’s global effort to strengthen Israel’s diplomatic standing. But Netanyahu also had a more specific goal in mind: putting pressure on South Africa—to which many of the continents’ nations look for leadership—to end its hostility toward the Jewish state. Amnon Lord explains:

The strengthening of relations with African countries is intended, among other things, to create a greenhouse effect, melting the “glacier” of South Africa’s hostility that [in turn] limits Israel’s relations with [other] African countries. . . .

South Africa’s experience under apartheid is used by the BDS movement as a political weapon. South Africa is largely the territorial base of BDS. . . . The power of [anti-Israel] movements is multiplied in South Africa, [which despite] all of its corruption and failures, has been transformed since the elimination of apartheid by Nelson Mandela’s leadership into a “moral power.” This [authority] could be a strategic resource for Israel—but South Africa’s status as a moral power is instead directed against Israel. . . .

Official solidarity with the Palestinian cause is absolute. It is a South African legacy of the longstanding partnership with the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) that was created by the Soviet Union during the cold war. The [governing] African National Congress (ANC), [which led the anti-apartheid movement under Nelson Mandela] had many Communist members, many of them Jews. They formed the connecting link between the ANC and the PLO. This is why the senior Hamas official Khaled Meshal was received in South Africa as an official guest of honor, and even had a meeting with President Jacob Zuma.

The surprise is that there are black South Africans who are willing to fight for Israel’s sake. These are young people who feel cheated by the lies of the boycott movement; some of them are even former student BDS activists. They feel insulted that the term “apartheid” is used against Israel. As far as they are concerned, this is a kind of denial of the suffering they endured under the real apartheid system that existed in South Africa.

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More about: Africa, BDS, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel & Zionism, Israel diplomacy, South Africa

The Impossibility of Unilateral Withdrawal from the West Bank

Feb. 19 2019

Since throwing his hat into the ring for the Israeli premiership, the former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz has been reticent about his policy plans. Nonetheless, he has made clear his openness to unilateral disengagement from the West Bank along the lines of the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, stating the necessity of finding “a way in which we’re not controlling other people.” Gershon Hacohen argues that any such plan would be ill-advised:

The political and strategic precepts underlying the Oslo “peace” process, which Gantz echoes, vanished long ago. The PLO has unequivocally revealed its true colors: its total lack of interest in peace, unyielding rejection of the idea of Jewish statehood, and incessant propensity for violence and terrorism. . . . Tehran is rapidly emerging as regional hegemon, with its tentacles spreading from Yemen and Iraq to the Mediterranean Sea and its dogged quest for nuclear weapons continuing apace under the international radar. Even the terror groups Hizballah and Hamas pose a far greater threat to Israel’s national security than they did a decade ago. Under these circumstances, Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank’s Area C, [the only part still under direct Israeli control], would constitute nothing short of an existential threat.

Nor does Israel need to find a way to stop “controlling other people,” as Gantz put it, for the simple reason that its control of the Palestinians ended some two decades ago. In May 1994 the IDF withdrew from all Palestinian population centers in the Gaza Strip. In January 1996 it vacated the West Bank’s populated areas (the Oslo Accords’ Areas A and B), comprising over 90 percent of the West Bank’s Palestinian residents, and handed control of that population to the Palestinian Authority (PA). . . .

This in turn means that the real dispute between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as within Israel itself, no longer revolves around the end of “occupation” but around the future of eastern Jerusalem and Area C. And since Area C (which is home to only 100,000 Palestinians) includes all the Jewish West Bank localities, IDF bases, transportation arteries, vital topographic sites, and habitable empty spaces between the Jordan Valley and the Jerusalem metropolis, its continued retention by Israel is a vital national interest. Why? Because its surrender to a potentially hostile Palestinian state would make the defense of the Israeli hinterland virtually impossible—and because these highly strategic and sparsely populated lands are of immense economic, infrastructural, communal, ecological, and cultural importance, not to mention their historical significance as the bedrock of the Jewish ancestral homeland

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More about: Benny Gantz, Israel & Zionism, Two-State Solution, West Bank