Too expensive. Yes, that was really the reason given for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision not to attend Nelson Mandela’s funeral at Soweto Stadium in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
To put things in perspective, a round trip flight from Tel Aviv to Johannesburg this coming weekend will cost you $1,791 according to travel website KAYAK.COM.
Again, a trip to Nelson Mandela’s funeral was too expensive.
Considering Netanyahu spent $127,000 on a private sleeping cabin to attend Margaret Thatcher’s funeral in London, this is hard to believe.
Nelson Mandela advocated for Palestinian rights and against the occupation of the West Bank, an occupation that Netanyahu is solidifying.
It seems Netanyahu did not want to be at the funeral.
His decision is absurd, but sadly, his absence is fitting.
Nelson Mandela dedicated his life to ending a bitter conflict through coexistence and reconciliation. Netanyahu is doing his utmost to prolong one, taking active steps to distance Israel from the international community and jeopardize any chance of peace.
Mandela was a critic of Israeli policies toward the Palestinians but showed full support for Israel’s right to exist. During a visit to Israel in 1999 Mandela said, “I cannot conceive of Israel withdrawing if Arab states do not recognize Israel within secure borders.”
In his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom, Mandela wrote, “I have found Jews to be more broad-minded than most whites on issues of race and politics, perhaps because they themselves have historically been victims of prejudice.”
Today’s Israeli government fails to put things in perspective. The world remembers Nelson Mandela as a visionary, a warrior for peace, freedom, and equality while the Netanyahu government remembers him as a supporter of Palestinian rights and a critic of Israel.
Netanyahu has chosen to disrespect the world yet again, not attending the funeral because Mandela was an honest critic of Israel.
My latest article criticized Netanyahu’s decision to publicly oppose the interim nuclear agreement with Iran as it risks losing key allies. His decision to not make the trip to South Africa is the latest step in Israel’s perilous path toward international isolation.
This time, Netanyahu’s decision cannot be attributed to a lack of common sense or pragmatic thinking. Failure to attend the funeral is offensive and using the high cost as the excuse is hurtful.
The ideals Nelson Mandela fought for are those needed in bringing peace between Israelis and Palestinians: mutual respect, reconciliation, equality, and tolerance. The world deserves to know that though Benjamin Netanyahu was absent on Tuesday, the hearts of millions Israelis were not.