President Cyril Ramaphosa. File photo: ANA

Johannesburg - More than a year after withdrawing its ambassador to Israel, the government has not finalised the downgrading of its embassy in Tel Aviv.

This emerged in a written response by President Cyril Ramaphosa to a parliamentary question posed by National Freedom Party MP Munzoor Shaik-Emam, who asked for a progress update on the matter.

In 2017, the ANC decided at its national elective conference the government should downgrade its embassy in Israel. South African ambassador to Israel Sisa Ngombane was withdrawn from Tel Aviv in May 2018, after a massacre of protesting Palestinians by the Israeli army in Gaza.

In his written response, Ramaphosa said the government was still forging ahead with plans to downgrade South Africa’s embassy in Israel. “The government remains engaged with the modalities of downgrading the South African Embassy in Israel.

“We have recalled our ambassador and intend to retain a liaison office in Tel Aviv, which will oversee our continuing provision of consular services and any trade and economic relations,” Ramaphosa said.

He said the model was similar to the office hosted in Rabat, Morocco.

“It’s anticipated that once we confirm genuine efforts at resolving the impasse in Palestine, we will review this arrangement.”

His response came almost two months after International Relations and Co-operation Minister Naledi Pandor told the IFP’s Mkhuleko Hlengwa in a written response that the government was still busy with the modalities of downgrading the embassy.

The president gave a similar response when he was asked during a parliamentary session in March, saying the government was in the process of giving effect to a resolution of the ANC to downgrade the embassy in Israel.

“Our approach is informed by our concern at the ongoing violation of the rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination, and the refusal of the government of Israel to enter into meaningful negotiations to find a just and peaceful resolution to this conflict,” he said.

He said they supported the achievement of a Palestinian state alongside the right of Israel to exist in peace and security with its neighbours.

Political Bureau