Created: 6/8/1981

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Africa Review


Southsrael: Status of Relation*

Relations berween South Africa and Israel have ln recent years expanded to include extensive economic dealings and close politicalappear to be strong enough to overcome their inherent LBff


Ties between South Africa and Israel, once heavily Military and highly secretive, have opened up in recent years to include extensive economic dealings,rowing tourist trade,lose political relationship. This trend was fostered by former Prime Minister Vorster's visit, to Israel The connection has mutualdrawbacks and potentialfor Israel, which is trying to establish diplomatic relations with several black African states--but the foundation of South African - Israeli relations is strong enough to overcome most obstacles.

Affinities and Frictions

One of the keys to the relationship has always been found in South Africa's influential Jewish coraaunity. Theews in South Africa are strong Zionists and have extensive family ties in Israel. They have contributed more per capita to Zionist funds than any other Jewish community and stand second only toJews in total annual contributions.* *

A number of other cultural and psychologicalunderlie the relationship. The Afrikaners andboth see themselves as "chosen people" and asof Old Testament values. They bothcolonial rule with eventual success. and South Africa are virtual pariahs in thecommunity, and within their respectiveare isolated and surrounded by actual or


tine, several real and potential sources between the two sides. Many Israelis morally repugnant and fear that too cation with South Africa might label

Israelis, moreover, are aware of the emitisra among the Afrikaners. Former rster was one of many South Africans who the Nazis in world war II.act that to denounce his visit Cw"T

South Africans also have some misgivings about the relationship. 1 Israel, which then, as now, was courting black African governments, votedN resolution condemning apartheid. 1 Tel Avivinancial contribution to the OAU's liberation fund, which Pretoria defined as "tacit support for black Africa-terrorism against white states in southern Africa. Ir addition, some virulently anti-Communist South Africanu question the wisdom of close relations with "socialist Israel. ^

The Political Context

Relations between the two countries were low key but amicable1 when the South African ln retaliation for Israel's UN vote against prohibited South African Jews from contributing funds to Israel. The Jewish community's emotionalto the Six-Day War in however, forced Pretoria to rescind the ban and permit the free transfer cf funds and goods to Israel. Lkn

Following3 war, during which South Africa provided Israel with an emergency supply of Mirage fighter parts, Israel raised the Btatus^of its mission in

South Africa to an Embassy, and the two countries

greatly increased their official exchanges. Black Africa's severing of relations with Israelarmer attitude toward South Africa by the Nixon and Fordhelped ease what few reservations remained in Tel Aviv about overt cooperation with Pretoria.

Prime Minister Vorster's visit to Israel6 and the accession to power the following year of Israeli Prime Minister Begin and otherouth African stem-bers of the Likud bloc ushered in the current renaissance


in the relationship- One measure of the mutual that now prevails has been the steady two-way flow of important visitors since vorster's visit, on the Israeli aide, they have included former Cabinet members weizman, Dayan, and Rabin, and Generals Meir Amit and Chaim Herzog. South African VIP visitors to Israel have included Finance Minister Horvood, former Minister of Information Mulder, and former Defense Force Chief of Staff Gen. Kagnus Malan. tyf)

Economic Relations

Tho most important growth in relations over the past five years has occurred on the economic level. Two-way trade, which stood at lessillion broke0 million barrier last year. The leading South African exports to Israel are processed foods, fish meal, tobacco, and base metals--particularly iron and steel. Chemicals, electronic equipment, and machinery head the list of Israeli exports to south Africa.

The trade balance falls heavily in favor of Southituation Tel Aviv has tried to offset through such steps as guaranteeing South African investors in Israel the right to repatriate their profits. The South African - Israeli Chamber of Commerce has promoted joint ventures, and both governments have passed favorable trade legislation. The most successful joint ventures combine South African capital and raw or semifinished goods with Israeli technological know-how and management expertise. Host of the joint projects are based in Iflrael--where they can take advantage of Israel's preferential tr.ado agreements with the United States and the EC. CVj

when the diamond trade is considered, the economic relationship becomes even more lopsided in South Africa's favor. Israel, one of the world's leaders in diamond finishing and polishing, gets all of its rawindirectly from South Africa. The international diamond market is structured so that nearly all of the world'svast majority of gemstones come from South Africa andsold ct fixed pricesondon syndicate, the Central Selling Organization. The CSO,onopoly dominated by South Africa's deBeers group, then markets the raw diamonds abroad. Israeli

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diamond purchases from theshow up in Israeli statistics as imports from theUnited

7 million last year. Jrtf)

are better0 Israelis, or

Among export commodities,est friend to Israel.


2 percent of the country's work force, are employed in the diamond industry. Finished diamonds uarn Israel more than SI billion annually, and constitute aboutercent of it* exports,


Tourism. Tourist trade between South Atrica andis brisk. South African tourists in Israel accounted forillion in foreign exchangewhile Israeli visitors provided South Africa with about S3 million. South Africa's Jewish communityLtist trade, but, as "people of theouth Africa's increasingly affluent Afrikaners aremore frequent visitors to Israel's ancient cities and holy shrines. Israel has waived visa requirements for South African travelers as part of its proqram to promote tourism.

Military Relations

Intelligence liaison stems fromll as each side's preoccupation with

_ The intimacy oi tne intelligenceis symbolized by Tel Aviv's appointment inthe former head of the Israeli intelligenceAmbassador to Pretoria. T

Arms Sales and the UM Arms Embargo. Much of the controversy over Southsraeli relations has centered on cooperation in the area of weaponsand sales. There is no evidence to supportrumors that South Africa, Israel, and Taiwan are jointlyruise missile, and recent media reports that Israel and South Africa are collaborating




in the constructionuclear-powered submarine in Durban are without basis in fact. The list of weapons of Israeli origin in the South African arsenal, however, istestimony to past large-scale arras trade between the two sides. included in Pretoria's inventory are Reshef-class patrol boats, Gabrielmissiles, Callil rifles, and Uzi submachineguns.

Israel's decision to interpret the UN arms embargo against south Africa7 as only covering future dealings has contributed to the arms sales controversy. Although the deal involving the Reshcf patrol boats and

their accompanying Gabriel missiles was concludedelivery of the boats and missiles continuedouth Africa in fact is still building the boats under

Israeli license. T*

Delayed deliveries, coupled with South African use of Israeli middlemen to gain access to commercial arms dealers, complicate our understanding of

snt arras trading between the.two countries. Despite

zcasional seconanand and thirdhand accounts that "Israel has made clandestine aims deliveries to South Africa, there is no hardrefuting Tel Aviv's official denials that it has concluded arms deals with south Africa7 or is otherwise violating the UN arms embargo as itit.

Nuclear Ties

Speculation about Southsraeliin producing nuclear weapons has been rife when Pretoria sold Tel Avivons of nominally safeguarded uranium. Prime Minister Vorster's proposal6eries of scientific and technicaland the reports linking South Africa and Israel to the9 "event" in the South Atlantic have raised such speculation to new heights



Ho similar exchanges have taken place between the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission and the South African Atomic Energy Board, and both the Israeli reactor complex at Dimona and the South African uranium enrichment plant have been closed to foreigner


Although there is room for continued growth in South African - Israeli relations, the phase of rapid expansionalready have run its course. The outcome of thethis month in Israel couldampening effect. Prime Minister Begin's primary challengers in the Labor Party have over the years made clear their reservations about bilateral ties, andabor government Tel Aviv could be expected to put some distance betweenand Pretoria. Some cooling in relations could occur even if the Likud bloc stays in power. Foreign Minister Shamir is only one of several leading members of the

ruling, coalition who haveeemphasis on thetide of relations, presumably to improveiplomatic breakthrough in black Africa.

Economic ties will probably be immune to dramatic shifts, but even here certain constraints could comeinto play. The geographic distance between the twodays by sea--has already inhibited some categories of trade, particularly bulk commodities, and could become moreisincentive if transportation prices continue to rise, on another level, Pretoria could react to any Israeli-inspired cooling of political ties by eliminating some of the incentives it has created for investment in Israel. Even if relations continue to flourish on the economic and political levels, the once-substantial arms trade could dry up as Israeli deliveries under pre-UN embargo contracts run out and as South Africa's indigenous arms industry begins producing more sophisticated equipment. tT

Overall, however, the foundations of South Africanties are strong enough to endure temporary The major concern facing each partner iscontinue to be the one implied in recent commentsIsraeli diplomat in Pretoria, who said Israel'sis toow profile in,enbnrrassjrelations with South Africa,

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