Former South African president F.W. de Klerk on Sunday said that sanctions against Israel would be "counterproductive," The Associated Press (AP) reported.
The report quoted de Klerk as having told Israeli radio that comparisons between apartheid South Africa and Israel's treatment of the Palestinians are "odious." He added that he prefers "dialogue and negotiation as a way to get governments to change their attitudes."
De Klerk was the last president under apartheid and, along with Nelson Mandela, ended its systematic racial discrimination.
He said the sanctions against South Africa "hurt the people they were intended to help," according to AP.
"There are many definitions of apartheid. I do not know what Mr. Kerry meant, but one should be careful about making comparisons,” said de Klerk at the time, adding, “From what I know of Israel, I do not think it's a fair comparison.”
He continued, "I would not call Israel an apartheid state. You have closed borders, but even the United States has closed borders and Mexicans cannot enter freely. There are Palestinians here with full rights and representation in the Knesset, there are no discriminatory laws against them. It's not fair to call Israel an apartheid state. If Kerry said it, I think he made a mistake.”
Those who support boycotting goods made in Judea and Samaria often point to a similar campaign credited with having undermined white rule in South Africa. Israel rejects the comparison.
Despite the comments by de Klerk, anti-Israel sentiments have been prevalent for years in South Africa, which has frequently been critical of Israel and has claimed that it is applying a policy of “apartheid” towards Palestinian Arabs.
In one incident, the former South African ambassador to Israel rejected a symbolic gift from the Israeli government, planting trees in his honor in a national park named after South Africa.
He explained that Israeli policies which, he claims, discriminate against Arabs appeared to be reminiscent of his experiences under South Africa's apartheid system.
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”.
South Africa has also imposed rules requiring that goods imported from Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem display special labels.