Netanyahu raises suspicion, cancels Mandela funeral trip

Many heads of state would not miss internationally renowned peace icon Nelson Mandela's funeral, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will do just that. His reason: it is too expensive to travel to South Africa, according to Israel's Haaretz daily newspaper.

Over 70 state presidents and 10 former heads of state have confirmed with the department of international relations and co-operation (Dirco) that they're coming to bid farewell to Mandela and more are still sending confirmation, according to spokesperson Clayson Monyela. 

Netanyahu had initially notified the South African authorities that he'd join his other counterparts to honour Mandela but made a last minute cancellation because the $2-million needed for his transport and security alone was just too steep. 

Haaretz reported that a senior Israeli government official said Netanyahu had planned to attend Mandela's funeral on Sunday in Qunu, but opted for the memorial service when the South African government asked all heads of states to attend a Tuesday memorial instead, as the family had expressed a desire to hold a private funeral.

The decision to cancel the trip to South Africa during such an important period is likely to raise suspicion and remind many of a difficult relationship Tel Aviv has with Pretoria. A democratic South Africa has been struggling to maintain a good relationship with Israel, particularly during Mandela's presidency.

Mandela was the first democratically elected president of South Africa and took power from the apartheid government, which was Israel's strong ally when most countries of the world rebuked racial segregation.

Netanyahu, however, paid tribute to Mandela as "a man of vision and a freedom fighter who disavowed violence".

Pretoria's 'anti-Israel stance'
In what will also not impress President Jacob Zuma's government, Haaretz reported in a separate article that South African-born Israelis say Mandela's legacy has been betrayed by Pretoria's "anti-Israel stance". The paper reported that while immigrants from South Africa mourned Mandela's death, they criticised the government's "antagonism" towards Israel. 


Haaretz quoted deputy director of Telfed, or the South African Zionist federation in Israel, Dorron Kline, as saying, "When Nelson Mandela was in power, South Africa was far more balanced in its approach to Israel. I think it was his personality and his outlook that kept things balanced. We'll feel his loss particularly in that sphere."

Mending relations after the end of apartheid has been a challenge, with diplomats from both sides speaking of a "not so perfect" relationship. Analysts described the relationship as "extremely complicated" and "jogging along at a low pace".

'Slowing down' relations
One of the sticking points is Pretoria's continued insistence that Tel Aviv should withdraw from all the entire occupied Palestine. International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane recently told a gathering of Cosatu leaders that South Africa was "slowing down" relations with Israel. 

Because of strong ties Israel enjoyed with apartheid South Africa, it took Mandela five years to accept an invitation to visit Tel Aviv. During his visit in 1999, Mandela told Israelis that after his release from prison in 1990 he had received invites to visit "almost every country in the world, except Israel".

Mandela, however, forgave Israel for the role it played in supporting apartheid and even mediated in the conflict between Israel and Palestine. 

Palestine's President Mahmoud Abbas is among heads of states who are scheduled to attend Tuesday's government memorial service for Mandela at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg. – Additional reporting by Sapa

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Mmanaledi Mataboge
Guest Author
Sapa
Guest Author
Advertising

Two dead in new ANC KwaZulu-Natal killings

A Mtubatuba councillor and a Hammarsdale ANC Youth League leader were shot yesterday near their homes

Inside Facebook’s big bet on Africa

New undersea cables will massively increase bandwidth to the continent

No back to school for teachers just yet

Last week the basic education minister was adamant that teachers will return to school on May 25, but some provinces say not all Covid-19 measures are in place to prevent its spread

Engineering slips out of gear at varsity

Walter Sisulu University wants to reprioritise R178-million that it stands to give back to treasury after failing to spend it
Advertising

Press Releases

Coexisting with Covid-19: Saving lives and the economy in India

A staggered exit from the lockdown accompanied by stepped-up testing to cover every district is necessary for India right now

What Africa can learn from Cuba in combating the Covid-19 pandemic

Africa should abandon the neoliberal path to be able to deal with Covid-19 and other health system challenges likely to emerge in future

Road to recovery for the tourism sector: The South African perspective

The best-case scenario is that South Africa's tourism sector’s recovery will only begin in earnest towards the end of this year

Covid-19: Eased lockdown and rule of law Webinar

If you are arrested and fined in lockdown, you do get a criminal record if you pay the admission of guilt fine

Covid-19 and Frontline Workers

Who is caring for the healthcare workers? 'Working together is how we are going to get through this. It’s not just a marathon, it’s a relay'.

PPS webinar Part 2: Small business, big risk

The risks that businesses face and how they can be dealt with are something all business owners should be well acquainted with

Call for applications for the position of GCRO executive director

The Gauteng City-Region Observatory is seeking to appoint a high-calibre researcher and manager to be the executive director and to lead it

DriveRisk stays safe with high-tech thermal camera solution

Itec Evolve installed the screening device within a few days to help the driver behaviour company become compliant with health and safety regulations