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Flap over Visit to Israel by South African Official

— The visit of Owen Horwood, the Finance Minister of South Africa, to Israel, caused a loud verbal dispute in the Knesset Security and Foreign Affairs Committee today.

The Labor Alignment opposition charged that the government was giving the visit too high a profile. Government coalition members retorted that every friend of Israel does not have to have his credentials checked. “Our international status does not allow us to choose our friends,” some said.

Shai Knesseter Amnon Rubinstein told Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir that South Africa has become a symbol of a detested regime. Whoever holds open relations with that country, Rubinstein said, harms his own interests. Labor Alignment Knesseter Yossi Sarid said he failed to understand what was the consideration which pushed Israel to make friends with “the family of lepers in the international community.”

Abraham Katz and Yosef Rom of the Likud said, on the other hand, that the world is full of hypocrisy and that in such a world Israel should not be singled out to be the sole high minded nation.

Shamir responded forcefully that Israel is opposed to the South African apartheid system and has always said so publicly. But he seemed to be taken aback by the negative reaction to the visit of Harwood. He noted that such visits should always be taken with due regard for proportion.

ISRAEL’S TRADE WITH SOUTH AFRICA

Harwood arrived in Israel Monday for talks with Finance Minister Yigal Hurwitz. It is a return visit to that by former Finance Minister Simcha Ehrlich to South Africa two years ago.

Harwood arrived with a team of 20 experts and officials. Trade between the two countries has grown significantly in the past few years. Israel’s exports to South Africa totalled $48 million in 1979, while imports reached $156 million according to the International Monetary Fund. Last year the deficit was only $42 million.

Israel was expected to press the South Africans to step up their investment in this country tomorrow the growing trade gap. The principal items bought from South Africa are steel and iron products, sugar, tobacco and paper. South Africa buys Israeli machinery, metal products, chemicals and electronic products.

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