During April 1976 the Prime Minister's visit to Israel gave a new dimension to South Africa's foreign policy. The formal agreement concluded on economic co-operation between South Africa and Israel, is of major importance to both countries.
Mr. Chairman. I should like to avail myself of this opportunity to reply to certain questions which were put to me and to certain statements which were made by hon. members opposite. But before I come to that I want to deal with certain other matters and make certain announcements.
Hon. members, in common with me, are aware that international relations are exceptionally delicate in these days in which we are living and that distorted, incorrect or false reports can do untold harm and can very easily lead to relations being disturbed on a large scale. As it is, not a day goes by without such reports appearing in the Press. I do not want to blame the Press for all the cases, for sometimes the Press receives information from erroneous sources, and sometimes incorrect reports are published in good faith. Unfortunately, however, reports are frequently published which are entirely fabricated or based entirely on speculation, and then put out as feelers. Subsequently one is continually asked for one's comment on such reports. Consequently it does not matter what comment one makes on them. The reports are usually of such a nature that one's comments can only cause further damage.
Such a report appeared this morning on the front page of the London Times. The report dealt with certain military assistance which South Africa had supposedly rendered to Rhodesia in the past, according to this report, assistance which South Africa had allegedly cancelled at a meeting last month, something which led inter alia - this is the inference - to a meeting with Minister P. K. van der Bijl of Rhodesia. I am not going to make any comment whatsoever on what we are giving or are not giving, had allegedly given or had not given, to Rhodesia. I shall leave it at that. But I do want to make it very clear that no such decision, such as the one referred to in the said report, was taken. Nor did any such meeting take place. While Parliament was in session Mr. Van der Bijl was here in South Africa, but he was up in the north and no talks whatsoever were held with him by any member of the Government or any other person in a position of authority. Considering the wide field of influence of the report, I felt that I should furnish this explanation.
Yesterday afternoon I said that I would discuss the agreement concluded between the Government of South Africa and the Government of Israel in greater detail today. 1 For the sake of the record I shall read the statement on that agreement which I made at the Press conference in Jerusalem on Monday, eight days ago:
"We have decided (i.e. the Government of Israel and the Government of South Africa) to establish a Ministerial Joint Committee comprising Ministers of South Africa and Israel. The committee will meet at least once a year and will make an overall review of the situation of the economic relations between the two countries and will discuss ways and means to expand the economic cooperation and trade between the two countries, such as:
(a) encouragement of investments;
(b) development of trade;
(c) scientific and industrial co-operation; and
(d) joint utilization of South African raw materials and Israeli manpower in joint projects.
A steering group will be established in order to regulate the exchange of information and ideas."
From this it follows that committees will be established in both countries. As far as South Africa is concerned, several Ministries will be involved in this and the necessary groundwork is now being done to give effect to this agreement. After that periodic meetings will be held on a ministerial level, as indicated in the agreement. I say again that I believe that this will take place to the mutual benefit of both countries. However, I see something else in this as well. I see in this a classic example of cooperation between two countries which are situated a great distance from each other, countries with divergent differences as far as their outlook and policies are concerned, but which are able to co-operate with each other in the economic sphere, for it has been our standpoint over the years - a sound standpoint, a standpoint which one cannot sufficiently emphasise in these times - that a difference in political policy, a difference in outlook ought not to be an obstacle to sound economic cooperation. If there should be economic co-operation only between countries which are in agreement with one another in all respects, I am afraid we would be making of a difficult world an even more difficult one. But I believe that there can be cordial economic co-operation between non-communistic and anti-communistic countries in spite of differences in internal policy and in spite of differences in outlook on matters of any nature whatsoever. As far as this agreement is concerned, Sir, I want to point out that trade already exists between South Africa and Israel, but I believe there is scope for increasing and improving this mutual trade.
Consequently that is what this agreement seeks to achieve. It is also true that an ad hoc exchange of knowledge between the two countries is already taking place, but I believe that both of us have enough to offer, and that it is worth while doing so on an organized basis. Technical skill on the one hand and raw materials on the other can be successfully combined to the benefit of both countries. One need only consider that both countries have a water problem, South Africa in greater measure than Israel - which has at least one perennial river on which it can rely. We in South Africa can develop only as far as our water allows. The desalination of seawater on an economic basis is of material importance to both countries. In the sphere of agriculture, in the sphere of stock diseases, and in so many other spheres which need not all be enumerated now, I believe there can be sound co-operation to the benefit of both countries.
As far as I personally am concerned, there is another matter as well, which is that in this world in which we are living it is simply the case that the big ones, the rich ones, are able to look after themselves, and in general do not experience many problems in getting by financially, except of course in recent times when everyone has been very hard hit. The poor ones in turn receive in very generous measure from the big countries, from the international funds and from other existing organizations. But I think hon. members will agree with me - this is in fact the case in private life as well - that those countries which frequently have to bear the brunt of economic problems are the middle-rank countries, lust as the middle-class individual is frequently the hardest hit. I believe that this is an example of co-operation between middle-rank countries an example which can be emulated by other middle-rank powers. One is greatly tempted to mention the names of countries here, but it would serve no purpose. However, hon. members are just as well able as I am to think of a dozen or so middle-rank countries which, because things have become so expensive, could very profitably conclude an agreement of co-operation with one another to the benefit of all. I on my part, will most certainly go out of my way to promote the idea of economic co-operation between middle-rank powers to the best of my ability. I know that it is a difficult task. Perhaps one could even say that it is an impossible task, but this still does not alter the fact that someone has to try to accomplish this task.
On 14 May 1948 the State of Israel came into being under the leadership of Mr. David Ben-Gurion. A few days later, on 26 May 1948, the Nationalist Party, under the leadership of Dr. D. F. Malan, took over the reins of government in South Africa. Dr. Malan visited Israel in 1953. He was the first Head of State to visit Israel. Cf. Jewish Affairs, June 1967. During this visit a formal agreement was concluded on economic co-operation between South Africa and Israel. Cf. Rand Daily Mail, 10.4.1976; Die Burger, 14.4.1976.