ANC Pledges Parliamentary Support to Suspend Israeli Relations, Close Embassy Over Gaza Conflict
14:52 16.11.2023 (Updated: 15:23 16.11.2023)
The party, which has a majority in parliament, expressed its unwavering support for the Palestinian people amid renewed violent tensions in the Middle East and organized a series of demonstrations in solidarity.
South Africa's ruling African National Congress will support a parliamentary motion calling for the relations with Tel Aviv to be suspended and the embassy to be closed, the party said in a statement.
"The African National Congress will agree to a parliamentary motion which calls upon the government to close the Israel Embassy in South Africa and suspend all diplomatic relations with Israel until Israel agrees to a ceasefire," the statement said.
The ANC has long supported the Palestinian people, seeing parallels between the discrimination they face and the apartheid system it fought in South Africa.
The petition to lawmakers was proposed by the Economic Freedom Fighters party, whose leader Julius Malema has spoken out in support of Palestine, calling the Israeli government "murderous" and the Palestinian group Hamas "freedom fighters." In late October, the EFF also held a picket in Pretoria "in solidarity with the people of Palestine."
On Thursday, Malema reiterated the need to close the Israeli Embassy at the petition hearing, saying that maintaining diplomatic relations with Israel was an affront to the South African constitution.
"We therefore call on members of parliament and the people of South Africa to support the call to remove the Israeli Embassy in South Africa," he said, as quoted by local media. "We can’t share a territory with murderers."
If the terms of the motion are implemented, Pretoria will become the third state to sever diplomatic ties with Israel following the escalation after Bolivia and Belize.
The South African government has repeatedly called for a ceasefire since the October escalation, describing the death toll in Gaza as "the result of unlawful actions by Israel." Earlier in the day, the country's top diplomat, Naledi Pandor, called Israel's actions in Gaza a "crime against humanity" in a media interview and urged countries with influence to call on the Jewish state to stop the violence.
In addition, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Wednesday during a visit to Qatar that the government has asked the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel for war crimes.
Last week, South Africa declared the withdrawal of all its diplomats from Israel to voice its alarm over the situation in Gaza. In addition, the South African Department of Foreign Affairs summoned Israeli Ambassador Eliav Belotsercovsky and notified him of the inadmissibility of his recent statements regarding the situation in Gaza and South Africa's foreign policy.
On October 7, Palestinian Hamas militants launched a surprise massive rocket attack on Israel from the Gaza Strip, breaching the border and kidnapping residents of neighboring Israeli communities. Israel retaliated by imposing a complete blockade on Gaza, cutting off water, food, and fuel supplies.