Focus on Issues Israeli Realism

Israeli Ambassador Joseph Harmelin chose the Exporter of the Year event at Durban’s Royal Hotel, on the edge of the Indian Ocean, to provide a realistic assessment of Israel’s present situation. The sponsors were the Sunday Tribune and the South African Foreign Trade Organization.

Harmelin cautioned that while peace between Israel and its neighbors would bring prosperity, “it will not by itself solve any of the burdensome problems of the Western world. It will not add one barrel of oil. It will not make oil cheaper by even one cent.”

He explained: “The supply of oil and its prices is determined by economic and technical factors. It has nothing to do with the Israeli-Arab conflict. Also, the disappearance of the conflict will not bring a more reasonable government to power in Iran. It will not improve the chances of the ruling clique in Saudi Arabia to outlive the social changes occurring there.”

Furthermore, Harmelin said, “It will not improve the relations between Syria and Iraq, between Libya and Egypt, between South and North Yemen. It will not bring peace to Lebanon. It will not lessen Russian influence in Ethiopian. And, of course, it will not remove the Russians from Afghanistan–or from whatever place they will be by then.”

All these problems, Israel’s Ambassador added, “to mention just a few in Israel’s immediate neighborhood, are independent of the Israeli-Arab conflict. Pressuring Israel to give in to unjustified demands–besides endangering the one reliable ally the West has in that area–will not bring relief from the troubles of the West. If the West wants to resolve them, it will have to come to grips with them.”

ISRAELI-SOUTH AFRICAN TRADE

Turning to Israeli-South African trade, Harmelin–the last Israeli to leave Teheran–observed that this had dramatically increased in recent years. Barely $20 million in 1972, the bilateral volume of trade had reached $200 million in 1979. Of this total, about $50 million represent Israeli exports to South Africa, composed mainly of mineral and chemical products, yet also of machinery, electronic equipment and textiles.

As far as Israel’s imports from South Africa is concerned, Harmelin said that basic metals constitute more than half the value, followed by semi-precious stories, wood, paper and food-stuffs, Meanwhile, Israel and South Africa had signed an agreement for the purchase of South African coal, soon to reach one million tons a year, thus adding another $30 million to Israel’s imports. “We try hard to sell more in this country,” he said, “so that our trade should be more balanced.”

Referring to Israel’s overall negative trade balance, Harmelin noted that its electronics industry had exported goods worth $5 million in 1968. Ten years later, he said, Israel was exporting $200 million worth of electronic equipment. He expected that this year the Israeli aircraft industry would export radar equipment, missiles and the like for half a billion dollars.

Harmelin also took a hard look at Israel’s general economic situation. Because of the country’s security problems–and he had himself played a leading role in that field some years before–Israel cannot experiment with large-scale unemployment, a step considered to be the best measure to curb inflation. Yet the effort to slow down inflation had become the number one priority of the government, and the results, “while not yet being revolutionary, “show that the average inflation rate had decreased and the frightening trend reversed, the Israeli diplomat said.

Foreign observers interested in the normalization of South Africa’s relations with Israel will also have noted that Pretoria’s trade with the Arab world and with Black Africa for exceed the trade with the Jewish State although, going by the absurdities uttered at the United Nations, one would think that the opposite was the case. And though Harmelin did not refer to it, it is known that Israel has ever approved of apartheid and still adheres to the ban of arms to South Africa.

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