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South Africa’s Parliament Votes to Downgrade Diplomatic Ties With Israel

Members of the South African parliament gather ahead of a debate to the possibility of initiating proceedings to remove South African President Cyril Ramaphosa from office, at a parliamentary session in Cape Town on December 13, 2022. InternationalIndiaAfricaSince the toppling of the apartheid regime in 1994, bilateral relations between the two countries have been complicated due to South Africa’s support for the Palestinians. In May 2018, the country recalled its ambassador to Israel. Since then, the embassy has been headed by a charge d’affaires.The South African parliament has passed a draft resolution to downgrade the country’s embassy in Israel to a liaison office due to the Jewish state’s treatment of the Palestinians in the West Bank and purported abuses against them. The result of the vote was announced by the National Freedom Party (NFP), a center-left party with two seats in the parliament, which introduced the resolution. It was passed by South Africa’s legislative body on Tuesday with 208 votes in favor and 94 against. The resolution was supported by a majority of the parties, including the governing African National Congress (ANC). Many South Africans express solidarity with the Palestinians, saying the situation on occupied Palestinian territory is similar to what the African nation experienced during the apartheid era.

In a statement, the NFP claimed that "Israel was built through the displacement, murder, and maiming of Palestinians," and it established apartheid to maintain the power and control over them. Thus, it was underlined, South Africans are not going "to stand by while apartheid is being perpetrated again."

The NFP referred to the motion as a historic one that demonstrates the country’s commitment to “justice, human rights, and freedom.” Ahmed Munzoor Shaik Emam, the NFP’s leader in the parliament, stated that following the parliament voting in favor of downgrading the embassy in Israel, he believes other countries will follow suit.

"We’re hoping that this is going to be the first step in putting pressure on Israel to comply with human rights, recognise the rights of the Palestinian people, their right to exist, and also go back to the negotiating table," he was quoted as saying by local media.

However, the resolution will go into effect only if the government adopts it and informs Israel on the matter. The government has not responded to the vote yet. Israel’s Foreign Ministry, for its part, condemned South Africa’s parliament for its resolution, dubbing it as “shameful and disgraceful.” The ministry expressed frustration over the move, saying that it’s unfortunate that Pretoria “continues to deteriorate” relations with Israel, and that it “will only harm South Africa itself and its standing.”At the same time, Shaik Emam called on South Africa “to be on the right side of history,” and not to be passive or neutral over the oppression and human rights violations against Palestinians, saying that the resolution is a decision that Nelson Mandela, who fought for freedom and justice, would be proud of.Following the debate on the issue in South Africa’s parliament, the country’s Deputy Minister of International Relations Alvin Botes noted that South Africans can’t stand the continued escalation of violence against Palestinians and have a moral obligation to support them. AfricaIsraeli Observers Kicked Out of African Union Summit Were Not Invited Says Chairperson20 February, 00:54 GMTHe also expressed the country’s support for the African Union’s decision to remove an Israeli diplomat at the summit in Addis Ababa last month, recalling that South Africa was one of the countries that rejected the acceptance of Israel as an observer state in the AU.”With regards to the recent developments at the AU we support the suspension of the Israel observer status. It is clear that the unjust action committed by Israel offended the spirit and letter of the Charter of the AU. South Africa believes that as long as Israel is not willing to negotiate a peace plan that it cannot have the privilege to sit in as an observer in the AU assembly,” he said.Israel’s Foreign Ministry deputy director for Africa, Ambassador Sharon Bar-Li, was removed by guards from the African Union hall, where the organization’s annual summit was taking place. African Union Commission Chairman Moussa Faki commented on the incident, saying that Israeli diplomats were escorted from the event because they were not invited. He added that the decision to grant observer status to Israel had been suspended pending discussion of the issue by a specially created committee.


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