An improvement in Israeli-South African relations may be on the horizon, MK Dov Lipman (Yesh Atid) stated Sunday, after he made a landmark visit to the South African Parliament after a five-year hiatus.
Lipman, who is Chairman of the Parliamentary Friendship Association in Israel, was invited by Israel's ambassador to South Africa, Arthur Link, who accompanied him throughout the visit.
Lipman met MPs from four different parties during the visit - including the African National Congress (ANC) party, which is strongly anti-Israel and recently condemned Israel's self-defense operation in Gaza as "barbaric."
Despite this, Lipman called for the renewal parliamentary relations during the visit, and urged to enhance economic cooperation between Israel and South Africa.
South African MPs stressed to Lipman that they hope to be partners in the peace process, noting that the renewal of talks would strengthen their economic interests.
Lipman's most successful meeting was with ANC MP Moses Masango, who serves as Chairman of the Foreign Lobby in South Africa's parliament. During the meeting, Masango expressed hopes of improving relations between the two countries.
The MK also noted his personal attendance of Nelson Mandela's funeral last year, emphasizing that the symbolic move is a major step toward public reconciliation between Jerusalem and Pretoria.
"The fact that the meeting happened [at all] is already a great achievement," Lipman stated. "This visit is an important first step toward the improvement of relations between the two countries."
"The channels of communication are open again, which helped me explain the delicate political-security situation in the [Middle East]," Lipman added. "Contrary to what many think, very soon we will see an increase in Israeli exports to South Africa."
Anti-Israel sentiment has been high in South Africa, where leaders such as Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have long been outspoken against Israel.
South Africa's Foreign Minister has in the past slammed Israel's plans to build new homes in Jerusalem, saying she was “losing sleep” over the size of “Palestine”.
Most recently, President Jacob Zuma’s party compared Israel’s airstrikes on Gaza to the actions of the Nazis during World War II, evoking outrage from Jewish groups in the country.
South Africa has also imposed rules requiring that goods imported from Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem display special labels.
Pretoria has been making some steps toward reconciliation, however. On Friday, Zuma declared his commitment to end anti-Semitism in South Africa, amid reports of skyrocketing hate crimes against Jews in his home country and worldwide.