Israeli ambassador to South Africa Eliav Belotserkovsky could find himself in hot water after the Cabinet directed the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco) to take necessary measures within the diplomatic protocols to deal with his “conduct” .
This comes as South Africa became the latest country to recall its diplomats in Tel Aviv as the death toll from Israeli strikes in Gaza now exceeds 10 000.
Citing the “refusal of the Israeli government to respect international law and its continued undermining of the United Nations resolutions”, South Africa joined countries Colombia, Türkiye, Bahrain, Honduras, Bolivia and Chad who have taken similar diplomatic moves in the past week in protest against Israel’s attacks on the Gaza Strip.
Dirco spokesperson Clayson Monyela said logistic arrangements will be made for the three diplomats.
“The humanitarian corridors for the people of Palestine remain closed with dire consequences for children, women and innocent civilians. The genocidal airstrikes by the government of Israel on the people of Palestine, continue with rising death toll that include women and children. In the last two days, the world has sat helplessly and watched as intensifying airstrikes on Gaza and the West Bank have destroyed schools, health facilities, ambulances and civilian infrastructure and supposedly safe roads travelling to the South of Gaza,” Cabinet said.
Speaking during the post-Cabinet media briefing on Monday Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni described Belotserkovsky’s position and presence as becoming “very untenable” following his alleged comments.
“Cabinet has decided to instruct Dirco to take necessary measures within the diplomatic channels and protocols to deal with the conduct of the ambassador of Israel to South Africa. We leave it to Dirco to decide what will be done with the ambassador. He is a guest in our country and must conduct himself as a guest, and he has no right,” she said without divulging further details.
Approached for comment, the embassy of Israel in Pretoria said: “There has not been any further developments that the Embassy wishes to add in this regard.”
The ANC said it welcomed the government’s move to recall the diplomats, adding “the genocidal actions of the Israeli regime on the people of Palestine in Gaza and the West Bank are crimes against humanity. We call for an immediate ceasefire”.
ANC MP Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela, from Royal House of Mandela said while they welcomed the recalling of South African diplomats from “apartheid Israel”, more action was needed.
“We will keep mobilising South Africans until the Apartheid Israel Ambassador is expelled and all diplomatic ties with apartheid Israel are cut. We appeal to them to follow this up with expelling the Apartheid Israeli Ambassador and cutting all diplomatic ties in light of the flagrant disregard for international law, basic humanity and regard for the value of human life as outlined in the Geneva Convention,” Mandela said.
The General Industries Workers’ Union of SA (GIWUSA), part of the Palestinian Solidarity campaign, meanwhile said it believed that the Cabinet decision to withdraw South Africa’s diplomats in Israel was “wholly inadequate” given the daily massacres of Palestinians.
“Our demands are very clear – the Israeli ambassador and all Israeli diplomatic staff must be immediately expelled from South Africa. The South African government must terminate all diplomatic relations with the Zionist and apartheid State of Israel now,” the union said.
Weighing in on the issue, conflict resolution expert, Risk Recon director, Dr Kingsley Makhubela, said the move was incorrect as the absence of a South African diplomatic mission in Tel Aviv will not change the situation and “will not allow South Africa better understanding of what’s happening there”.
Wits international relations professor John Stremlau said: “South Africa has a voice on this that is worth expressing. The Cabinet had to take a decision based on merits and their own moral campus.
They did not take the decision because it’s going to be consequential, it’s about (their) moral (position).”
Meanwhile, Israel has rebuffed mounting international pressure for a ceasefire, saying hostages taken by Hamas militants during their rampage in southern Israel on October 7 should be released first.