‘Nobody in Palestinian Authority was scheduled to meet with Maimane’

The Palestinian embassy says it has no record of any meetings between DA leader Mmusi Maimane and any Palestinian official in Ramallah.

The Palestinian embassy to South Africa released a statement on Monday saying that Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane had not informed the embassy of his intention to visit the region and that no meetings had been arranged with members of the Palestinian Authority as Maimane has claimed.

“The embassy communicated with the Palestinian ministry of foreign affairs in Ramallah city and were officially informed by the ministry that no [Palestinian] officials or leadership were to meet with Mr Maimane,” the embassy said.

The statement comes after Maimane met Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders, in his private capacity during a visit to the region.

A picture of Maimane shaking hands with Netanyahu circulated on social media, drawing criticism from pro-Palestinian supporters in South Africa, including the ANC.

Despite maintaining diplomatic relations with Israel, the South African government has stood in solidarity with Palestine, saying Israel has acted unjustly and illegally occupied Palestinian territories.

The ANC criticised Maimane for visiting Israel, particularly so soon after the fate of Palestine was discussed by the United Nations Security Council.

ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said on Monday: “At a time when the world is increasingly standing up against Israel’s illegal settlements, including the United Nations Security Council, it is a pity that the DA is endorsing the Israeli regime instead of condemning its violations of international law.”

The DA, however, defended Maimane’s visit, saying he made the trip “in order to listen and learn about the conflict first hand and to discuss how South Africa should be playing a more constructive role in bringing the parties together for peace”.

The party also said that Maimane had met both Palestinian and Israeli leaders.  The party said, however, that a meeting between Maimane and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was cancelled as a result of scheduling conflicts.

The Palestinian embassy to South Africa said on Monday that Maimane had made “allegations of his meetings with the leadership of the Palestinian Authority”, but had failed to name any officials he had met with.

In visiting Israel, Maimane has also ignored President Jacob Zuma’s discouragement of any travel to Israel by South Africans.

“The people of Palestine continue to suffer in their rightful quest for self-determination,” Zuma said in his speech at the ANC’s 105th anniversary celebration earlier this month.

“The ANC pledges its ongoing solidarity and support for their just cause. We reiterate that we firmly discourage travel to Israel for causes not related to fostering peace in the region.”

Critics such as Julius Malema have made unsubstantiated claims that the DA receives funding from Israel, and Maimane’s visit has been perceived as a reinforcement that the party does not support Palestinian sovereignty.

DA spokesperson Phumzile Van Damme, however, has refuted the statement released by the Palestinian embassy, saying “countless emails” were sent between Abbas’ and Maimane’s offices.

South Africans are not required to have a visa to travel to Palestine and therefore do not need to inform the Palestinian embassy of their intention to visit.

The Palestinian embassy, however, has made it specifically clear that it only knew through media reports that Maimane had visited Palestine.

According to the department of international relations and co-operation, “all travel to the Palestinian Territories is controlled by Israel”. Travellers who wish to enter may do so if they have met the requirements to travel to Israel. 

On Friday, 702 presenter Redi Tlhabi suggested Maimane should by now have enough of an understanding of Palestine and Israel to know better than to contribute to diplomatic tensions as he has done.



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