Many South Africans have condemned DA leader Mmusi Maimane for his meeting and widely shared picture with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Some have accused the opposition party of endorsing the Israeli government, which once supported South Africa's apartheid regime.
The UN declared Israeli settlements illegal under international law.
But the DA says Maimane had asked for a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who allegedly cancelled due to scheduling conflicts.
Maimane's spokesperson Mabine Seabe says the party is seeking a full and first-hand understanding of the crisis in the Middle East.
The reason for the visit to both Israel and Palestine is that we want to understand this matter on a first-hand basis.— Mabine Seabe, Spokesperson for DA leader Mmusi Maimane
Seabe claims the visit was in order to assess the situation from the Israeli and Palestinian perspective, but says the reporting on the matter has been one-sided.
He says it was Netanyahu's office that decided to place the South African flag up for the photo op with Maimane , although he is not the head of state.
Take a listen:
@RediTlhabi a picture says a thousand words but I will just say they goes all the Muslims Votes for the DA come 2019, EFF should capitalise!— Kay Dee (@kudanmedia) January 13, 2017
@RediTlhabi from the interview I sensed Mmusi and his team knew what the flag will symbolise and they did it anyway— STM (@TebzaS) January 13, 2017
This article first appeared on CapeTalk : DA defends Maimane's meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu