The former South African president who helped end apartheid says sanctions against Israel would be “counterproductive.”
F.W. De Klerk told Israel Radio Sunday that comparisons between apartheid South Africa and Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians are “odious,” and that he prefers “dialogue and negotiation as a way to get governments to change their attitudes.”
Those who support boycotting Israeli goods or goods made in West Bank settlements often point to a similar campaign credited with having undermined white rule in South Africa. Israel rejects the comparison, and says the boycotts are aimed at delegitimizing its very existence.
De Klerk was the last president under apartheid and, along with Nelson Mandela, ended its systematic racial discrimination.
He says the sanctions against South Africa “hurt the people they were intended to help.”
Many in South Africa compare Israel’s presence in the West Bank to apartheid-era South Africa, a charge Israel rejects, resulting in an increasingly strained relationship between the two countries.
During a visit to Israel last year, De Klerk said that categorizing Israel as an apartheid state was “unfair.”
In an interview with Channel 2, the former president said that in contrast to the racial segregation in South Africa, “you have Palestinians living in Israel with full political rights,” and “you don’t have discriminatory laws against them, I mean not letting them swim on certain beaches or anything like that. I think it’s unfair to call Israel an apartheid state.”
The former president has also been an advocate of the two-state solution, and in an interview with the Oxford University newspaper in 2014, he said that both Israelis and Palestinians “need to take certain initiatives,” including the recognition of Israel and the establishment of viable borders for a future Palestinian state.
“I’m not saying it’s the right solution for Israel, but there will come in Israel a turning point where if the main obstacles of the moment which exist for a successful two-state solution are not removed, the two-state solution will become impossible,” he said.
“So, as an outsider I would say, believing that a two-state solution might be the best one, you’ll have to move fast, see the window of opportunity, jump through it — it might close.”
Relations between Jerusalem and Pretoria have been frosty for years and further deteriorated after last year’s Operation Protective Edge, when the African National Congress issued a statement comparing Israel’s actions to those of Nazi Germany and accusing Jerusalem of turning the Palestinian territories into “permanent death camps.”