25 years ago, on September 16, 1987, South Africa’s ambassador in Israel was summoned to the Foreign Ministry’s office in Jerusalem, and informed of the Israeli cabinet’s decision to level sanctions on his nation’s apartheid regime. Until then, Israel was the only Western nation that upheld diplomatic ties with South Africa.
At the time, the ambassador was furious over the decision. In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, he claimed that the Israeli government’s decision went against public opinion, which supported South Africa. Then-South African president, Pieter Willem Botha, personally sent a letter to then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, in which he stated that the decision was harmful to the strategic alliance that had existed between the two nations.
On Thursday, South Africa’s envoy to Israel will be summoned to the Foreign Ministry’s Jerusalem office yet again. This time, however, the tables have turned. The head of the Foreign Ministry’s Africa Department, Avi Granot, is expected to reproach the South African ambassador over his nation’s decision to level sanctions on Israeli goods originating from settlements in the West Bank.
On Wedneaday, the South African government approved the decision of Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies, to specifically label goods produced in the West Bank. According to the South African government’s decision, goods produced within the Green Line will be labeled “made in Israel,” while goods originating beyond the Green Line will be labeled “made in occupied Palestinian territory.”
In May, Davies reported that he was advancing a plan to add a label goods produced in the West Bank. Since then, Israel has made diplomatic efforts in an attempt to thwart the attempt. The South African Jewish community also made lobbying efforts, to no avail.
The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem expressed a great deal of anger over the South African Decision on Wednesday. “Foreign Ministry spokesperson Yigal Palmor called the move “without precedent.”
“No such measure has ever been adopted in South Africa or in any other country: It constitutes therefore a blatant discrimination based on national and political distinction. This kind of discrimination has not been imposed – and rightly so – in any other case of national, territorial or ethnic conflict,” continued Palmor.
Palmor pointed out that Israel and South Africa harbor legitimate differences in opinion regarding the Palestinian Issue, however he called “the use of tools which, by essence, discriminate and single out, fostering a general boycott,” unacceptable.
“Such exclusion and discrimination bring to mind ideas of racist nature which the government of South Africa, more than any other, should have wholly rejected,” said Palmor.