Peres: Israel Winding Down Military and Trade Relations with South Africa

Foreign Minister Shimon Peres stressed to a visiting group of Black leaders from the U.S. that Israel’s military and trade relations with South Africa were winding down.

Peres denied vehemently that there is nuclear cooperation between Israel and South Africa and that media reports to the contrary over the years were unfounded. Peres made that statement to the Black leaders Monday and on Tuesday to a group from the British College of National Defense.

The Black delegation is led by Martin Luther King III, son of the late American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. Peres assured them that Israel is falling in line with other Western states in restricting contacts with South Africa. He cited the Cabinet decision earlier this year not to enter into any new defense contracts with the South African government, though existing contracts will be fulfilled, and that Israel may apply further sanctions against South Africa soon.

Peres referred to his Political Director General of the Foreign Ministry, Yossi Beilin, a long-time anti-apartheid activist, as the architect of Israel’s policy toward South Africa. Beilin himself addressed the group.

He said the extent of Israel’s trade with South Africa was greatly exaggerated by the media. Last year, Israel sold $80 million worth of exports to South Africa and imported $160 million, mostly coal.

King told reporters afterwards that he was impressed by Peres’ “sincerity.” He said it was made clear, however, that implementation of Israel’s sanctions would take time.

Meanwhile, the Israeli media reported this week that many aeronautical engineers and technicians say they will seek employment in South Africa as a consequence of the government’s decision to cancel the Lavi fighterplane project.

Dozens of skilled Israel Aviation Industries personnel claim to have been approached by the South African aeronautics industry with job offers, the media reported.

According to Yediot Achronot, the South Africans are offering much higher pay than IAI and would pay part of the Israelis’ salaries into Swiss bank accounts.

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