Mmusi Maimane defends Israel visit

Mmusi Maimane with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu during his visit to Israel. Photo: Arthur Lenk/TWITTER
Mmusi Maimane with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu during his visit to Israel. Photo: Arthur Lenk/TWITTER

DA leader Mmusi Maimane does not agree with Israel's stance on Palestine, but he is also against the use of violence to solve problems.

"We have a rich history, we reconciled [under apartheid to have a democratic state]. It is important to understand and look at the history of Palestine and Israel.

"I think Israel is wrong. But the resolution does not lie in violence. If that [had happened] in SA we would have suffered," he said.

South African foreign policy on the issue, which the DA supports, believes in a two-state solution .

Maimane continues to be tied in a knot over the visit to Israel last week. The DA has a big Muslim and Jewish constituency, both in the Western Cape and Gauteng, and the visit could risk him alienating one or both of these groups.

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe yesterday said the DA's visits to countries such as Israel and Taiwan undermined SA's policies.

He said the DA was consolidating relationships with parties hostile to SA and the ANC.

Maimane, however, was adamant that there was nothing wrong with his visit, saying any leader whose country had a delegation in the United Nations would want to visit the region [Israel and Palestine] in order to understand the source of the conflict.

"I think the noise should not be about my visits, it should rather be about what is the basis of our foreign policy before banning people from going to other countries.

"If we do not play a role of bringing the two sides together, then when these things are being tabled in the UN we cannot vote because we are not fully informed," Maimane said.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) passed a resolution recently that Christians and Jews had no historical claim on one of Jerusalem's holiest sites, Maimane said.

"SA voted in support of that, now if I do not go see for myself ... we can't just be giving the powers to the ambassador in the UN to vote while we leaders do not understand."

He said he was disturbed the government did not have a problem in protecting and hosting Sudanese President Al-Bashir who is facing charges of human rights violations.

Maimane said SA, as a leading country in Africa, needed to revise its foreign policy which he believed was outdated as other African countries were visiting Israel.

"I am now being condemned for visiting Israel, when there is a scheduled visit by Ecowas [Economic Community of West African States] countries to Israel.

"Now I want to understand; is our foreign policy updated or have we just assumed a historical position?"

Maimane said South Africans needed to debate the country's foreign policy so it's in line with what was happening around the world.

"I am saying our foreign policy must be [based] on human rights and trade."

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