SA Considers Closure of Israeli Embassy, Should Recognize Impact on Engagement With Palestine
12:30 17.11.2023 (Updated: 13:50 17.11.2023)
A day earlier, the country's top diplomat, Naledi Pandor, in a media interview called Israel's actions in Gaza a "crime against humanity" and called on influential countries to urge Tel Aviv to stop the violence.
The South African government is considering closing the Israeli embassy in the country, and should take into account that this could affect South Africa's diplomatic engagement in Palestine, South Africa's Deputy Foreign Minister Candith Mashego-Dlamini said during a debate in the country's parliament.
"The government is in discussion on the matter of closing the [Israeli] embassy in Pretoria and will need to take into consideration that it may affect our diplomatic presence in Palestine," said Mashego-Dlamini, adding that "the demand from South Africans for the closure has merit."
The deputy added that the South African government is interacting with all stakeholders regarding diplomatic relations with the Jewish state, "given the war crimes and genocide we are witnessing in Gaza."
Mashego-Dlamini's remarks came during a parliamentary debate on Thursday on a motion filed
by the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party proposing the closure of the Israeli embassy in Pretoria and the severing of all diplomatic ties with Tel Aviv.
During the debate, EFF leader Julius Malema reiterated his anti-Israel stance, calling on the government to sever all ties with the Jewish state "until the human rights of Palestinians are respected, promoted and protected."
"Israel must comply with international law. Until then any relations with them must be regarded as offensive to our constitution," he said, adding that his party supports President Ramaphosa's call for the Israeli government to be investigated by the International Criminal Court for war crimes.
In addition, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) announced on Thursday that it would support the EFF's motion. The ANC has long supported the Palestinian people, drawing parallels between the discrimination they face and the apartheid system the party fought in South Africa.
If the conditions of the motion are met, South Africa would become the third state to cut diplomatic ties with Israel following the Gaza escalation, after Bolivia and Belize. A vote on an initiative to review South Africa's relations with Israel, including the closure of the embassy, is scheduled for Tuesday.
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
." Last week, South Africa announced the recall of all its diplomats from Israel to express its concern about the situation in Gaza.
On October 7, Palestinian Hamas militants launched a surprise massive rocket attack on Israel from the Gaza Strip, breached the border, and kidnapped residents of neighboring Israeli communities. In response, Israel imposed a complete blockade on the Gaza Strip, cutting off water, food and fuel supplies, and later announced the extension of its ground operation.