Pretoria — International Relations and Cooperation Deputy Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim said on Friday that a resolution was necessary in Israel's occupation of Palestinian land and that the issue was not about whether or not people should boycott Israel.
"There has to be a resolution. I think that whether people go to Israel or not is neither here nor there but the problem arises because of the inability of the Israeli government to resolve or grant the Palestian people ... an independent state," said the deputy minister.
On Tuesday, Ebrahim said that South Africa did not have a policy aimed at boycotting Israel, but that Pretoria discouraged people from visiting Israel because of the latter's continued occupation of Palestinian land.
"We have no policy that says boycott Israel, but we believe that Israel is an occupying power and that we should discourage people from visiting that country," he said on Tuesday.
At a joint media briefing on Friday, following the second Meeting of the South Africa-Vietnam Partnership Forum that was co-chaired by Ebrahim and his Vietnamese counterpart Le Luong Minh, the deputy minister said the real issue was the continued occupation.
"We should not divert from the real crux of the issue that is the continued occupation, the building of settlements and the demolition of Palestinian homes," he said in response to a question on the matter.
He had noted criticism following earlier comments.
"The constitutional right of every South African is that they can visit wherever they want to go... The whole question of Israel- Palestine has to be looked at. Of course much of the criticism doesn't seem to address the main issue and the main issue is not whether you go to Israel or not. The main issue is that is there any steps taken by these people to stop the increasing settlement in east Jerusalem. There has to be a move to address the suffering of the Palestinian people," explained the deputy minister.
Minh said that the notion of co-existence in peace was supported.
The Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, which includes West Bank and Gaza, is seen as the foremost obstacle to peace in the region. Since Israel captured the territories in 1967, the international community, including the UN and international legal bodies, usually refer to the region as the occupied Palestinian territories, something Palestine had continued to reject.
South Africa's foreign policy had always been guided by finding a political solution to the decades-long crisis.