Pact with PLO Bears Dividends for Israel in Southern Africa

The recent agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization has opened the way for links between Israel and several southern African countries.

Israel’s deputy minister of health, Nawaf Massalha, an Israeli Arab, will hold top-level meetings with officials in Botswana, South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe later this month as a representative of Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.

Zimbabwe’s foreign minister, Nathan Shamuyarira, recently called the Sept. 13 agreement between Israel and the PLO the start of a new era and said his country was prepared to consider establishing diplomatic relations with Israel.

Several Israeli companies have already set up operations in Zimbabwe.

Israel has also established closer ties with Botswana, whose foreign minister, Gaositwe Chiepe, recently congratulated Israel on the agreement with the PLO.

And at a meeting in New York last month with Peres, Foreign Minister Theo Ben Gurirab of Namibia asked his Israei counterpart if Jerusalem would extend economic assistance to his country.

Preparations are now being made in Israel for an economic delegation to visit Namibia.

Meanwhile, diplomatic ties with Mozambique are moving forward. Israel’s ambassador to South Africa, Alon Liel, has been appointed non-resident ambassador to Mozambique and was due to present his credentials in the capital, Maputo, on Monday.

“Three months ago we had no official contact with any kind with these countries. Today we have links with all of them, although we have not established diplomatic links with all of them yet,” Liel told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

“When Nawaf Massalha visits these countries — as well as South Africa — we will explain the peace agreement with the PLO and how it will be implemented. These visits can also help forge closer ties with these countries,” Liel said.

In South Africa, the Israeli-PLO agreement has led to higher-level meetings between Israeli officials and members of the African National Congress.

Peres has met twice with ANC President Nelson Mandela, in New York and Lisbon, and ANC economic spokesman Trevor Manual has met with Israeli Finance Minister Avraham Shohat.

These meetings followed months of work by Liel with the ANC, even prior to the signing of the agreement with the PLO.

Liel said that at his last meeting with Mandela, the ANC leader had told him he regards the Israeli-PLO agreement as historic. He also said he would recommend Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat for the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize.

Mandela and South African President F.W. de Klerk were joint winners of the 1993 peace prize.

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