Salman El-Herfi (1944 - )
The Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo in
Profile of Salman El-Herfi
Ambassador Salman El-Herfi was born on 24 April 1944, in the Palestinian town of Ber Sabe (Beersheba), while the British mandate was imposed on Palestine. He completed his primary and secondary schooling in Palestine.
Late in 1965, El-Herfi enrolled at the University of Algiers to study medicine and joined, with other fellow Palestinian students, the ranks of the General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS) as well as the Fatah youth movement.
In 1972, he was recalled by the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) to work in the office of the chairperson, Yasser Arafat. This was the beginning of a long journey of work and fellowship with President Arafat. While in Lebanon, he enrolled at the University of Beyrouth where he obtained a degree in law.
He was appointed the State of Palestine’s first ambassador to South Africa in 1995, and he served until 2005.
During his 10-year stay in this country, El-Herfi was instrumental in consolidating relations between South Africa and the Palestinian leadership and people. He was actively involved in South Africa and other countries in Africa to promote a peaceful solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. While stationed in South Africa he made a point of visiting all the provinces and dedicated much time and effort to forging close ties with local communities and community leaders.
El-Herfi spared no effort in highlighting the plight of the Palestinian people among key role-players in the South African Government to support a common agenda as reflected by the positions put forward by countries of the Non-Aligned Movement and the South within multilateral flora.
El-Herfi has also had extensive contact with the Muslim community throughout South Africa and played a seminal role in explaining to the community the correctness of the South African Government’s policies in the Middle East. He was a guest speaker at a number of talks hosted by both influential Muslim and Jewish lobby groups, and in doing so performed a function in support of South Africa’s policies with regard to the Middle East Peace Process.
El-Herfi had extensive contact with the African National Congress (ANC). In nurturing his contact with members of the ANC, he ensured a continued solidarity between the ANC and the PLO and with Fatah in particular. This allowed the Government to facilitate, with the support of the Palestinian leadership, initiatives aimed at seeking a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Politically, South Africa’s contribution to the Middle East Peace Process has increased its profile in the region and earned it enhanced respect within the international community.
As deputy dean of the diplomatic corps, El-Herfi supported the South African Government’s policies, not only in relation to the Middle East, but also on other important issues such as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, Iraq and the reform of the United Nations. He was also able to nurture a strong and supportive relationship with the diplomatic community and with the Arab group in particular.
El-Herfi contributed to promoting the interests of the Republic of South Africa through his services as ambassador of Palestine and also as deputy dean of the diplomatic corps. He used all the available international platforms to gather political, financial and military support for the African liberation movements. It was within this context that he accompanied the late Oliver Tambo on many of his visits to the Middle-East and in particular to the Fatah Movement’s military training camps where many Umkhonto we Sizwe members underwent military training.
Ambassador Salman El-Herfi is currently the Palestinian ambassador to Tunisia.