SA MPs vote to close embassy, break ties with Israel

Eliav Belotsercovsky, Israeli ambassador to South Africa

The South African House of Assembly yesterday passed a non-binding resolution calling for breaking of diplomatic ties with Israel.

A motion to close the Israeli embassy, proposed by the EFF and amended by the ANC, who both accuse Israel of war crimes and genocide, was carried by 248 to 91 votes, with the ANC, EFF, al-Jahma-ah, NFP, ATM and PAC supporting it and the DA, ACDP, FF+ and IFP among those opposing it.

Shouts of “Free Palestine” and “Free Palestine, from the river to the sea” erupted from the ANC and EFF benches following the vote.

The amended motion calls  “upon the government to close the Israeli Embassy in South Africa until a ceasefire is agreed to by Israel and that Israel commit to binding United Nations facilitated negotiations whose outcome must be just, sustainable and lasting peace”.

Besides the fact that the resolution is largely symbolic, as it is up to the Executive whether or not to implement it, Parliament’s deliberations were overshadowed by events. A day ahead of the vote, Israel recalled its ambassador in SA for consultations. Two weeks earlier. the SA government, which is openly pro-Palestine and anti-Israel, recalled its ambassador and diplomatic mission in Tel Aviv in protest of Israel’s bombardment of Gaza in response to Hamas terrorists murdering 1 200 Israelis and taking about 240 hostages on the 7th of October. 

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While MPs were voting on the motion yesterday, President Cyril Ramaphosa was chairing a BRICS group virtual meeting on the Israel-Hamas war. The BRICS partners failed to reach a resolution but repeated charges of war crimes and genocide against Israel. At the same time, the Israeli cabinet was considering a deal to release 50 hostages and at least 150 Palestinian women and children, coupled with a four-day ceasefire. The deal was approved today.

It remains to be seen what the SA government does in response to Tuesday’s parliamentary resolution. Ahead of the vote, Minister of International Relations Naledi Pandor was quoted as saying that “breaking of diplomatic relations with Israel will be counterproductive as it will also affect our representative office in Ramallah. [where SA’s representative office with Palestine is situated]”.

From an Israeli point of view the amended resolution is a non starter. There is no way that Israel would accept any kind of negotiations chaired by the UN, which it justifiably perceives as biased against the Jewish state.

The most likely effect of Parliament’s vote is to further strain already-poor relations between SA and Israel, which took a further battering last week when South Africa joined five other developing nations in referring Israel to the International Criminal Court for war crimes over its conflict with Hamas.

It may be that the ANC and EFF MPs’ actions in Parliament were more focused on next year’s elections than on promoting peace in the Middle East.

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