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Israel’s purchase of a stake in a South African telescope is expected to increase scientific cooperation between the two countries.

Israel plans to purchase an 8 percent share in the $55 million telescope, called the Southern African Large Telescope project, located at Sutherland in the Karoo region.

“We need a part in it, as we don’t have the large telescopes needed for good astronomy in Israel,” explained Professor Hagai Netzer, an astronomer from Tel Aviv University, at a meeting of the Western Province Zionist Council of the South African Zionist Federation in Johannesburg. “One of the few we can join is in South Africa, as Israel is not very well liked in Europe these days.”

Due to the high cost of installing the telescope, South Africa held approximately 35 percent of the shares and had called for partners to “solve the financial issue,” Netzer said.

“We must come up with $4.4 million to be incorporated,” he said. “If we do, there’s a very good chance that we will be, but we have to do it fast.”

Netzer did not believe that local “antagonism” toward Israel would hamper his efforts.

“Very fortunately we’re dealing with scientists, who speak to the point,” he said. “We’re very popular in that community because we do good science.”

Describing the project as one of “tremendous significance for both Israel and South Africa and the relationship between the two countries,” Jonathan Silke, president of the South African Zionist Federation, expressed the wish for “a successful outcome to the negotiations that would lead to further scientific cooperation with South Africa.”

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