Bitter row erupts over Tzipi Livni visit

By Moira Schneider, January 27, 2011

A war of words has erupted between the Israeli Embassy, Israel's Department of Foreign Affairs and the chairman of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) over the cancellation of a trip by Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni.

The former vice-prime minister postponed her visit, due to take place this week, because of the ongoing strike at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Board chairman Zev Krengel told Ha'aretz last week that the cancellation would deal a "devastating blow" to the local Jewish community.

The Board's leadership said it was "hugely frustrated and disappointed by the lack of co-operation in this matter between the union in Israel and the Israeli Embassy in South Africa".

The Board added that a cancellation of the trip would be "perceived as a victory by anti-Israeli elements". Pro-Palestinian groups have been trying to get an arrest warrant issued against Ms Livni, but the police turned down the request.

Ambassador Dov Segev-Steinberg hit back at the Board, saying that he was obliged to abide by his union's decision to abstain from performing any ambassadorial duties while the strike lasted.

The embassy condemned the attack on the ambassador, a sentiment shared by the Foreign Ministry.

"We would like to add that the cancellation of the visit, as regrettable as it is, does not justify the baseless accusations of the chairman of the SAJBD against the ambassador and the other diplomatic staff in the embassy in Pretoria," Mr Segev-Steinberg said.

Last updated: 3:36pm, January 27 2011