President Jacob Zuma has paid tribute to the Jewish community for the contribution they made towards the establishment of democracy in South Africa, but his comments on Palestine were not well accepted.
The president was addressing the 48th Biennial National Conference of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies held at Gold Reef City, which was attended by former president Kgalema Montlanthe and Public Protector, Advocate Thuli Madonsela.
Zuma indicated that South Africa stood by the resolution that the problems of the Middle East could only be resolved with the acceptance of a two-state solution (Palestine and Israel), but he was booed when he suggested that the borders should allow for Jerusalem to become part of Palestine.
The booing of Zuma was in glaring contrast to the rapturous applause for Madonsela when the dignitaries attending the conference were introduced.
Zuma said, “We in South Africa believe lasting peace in the Middle East can only be achieved through a negotiated settlement, just as we did in South Africa with the apartheid regime.”
“As the ANC and people of South Africa, we took a stand for the sake of peace to sit at a round table with our sworn enemies to negotiate a future for us all. I know it was not easy, but it had to be done for the sake of our country and children.”
Zuma singled out leaders such as Joe Slovo and Denis Goldberg and said there were many more, too many to mention, who played a leading role, not just in the liberation struggle of this country but on other fronts as well, including the economic aspect of South Africa’s past and present.
The president also took the opportunity to apologise to the Jewish community for the way in which the recent Hamas visit was handled. The Jewish community felt Hamas was accorded a State visit when in actual fact Hamas had come at the invitation of the ANC.
“I know many of you have raised concerns about the way we handled the recent visit by Hamas, and I offer my apologies for that, but that was in the context of our belief that we should meet every player in the Middle East to impress upon them the importance of a peaceful resolution of the conflict,” Zuma said.