The Israeli Embassy in Pretoria said it was not permanently closing its doors and criticised BDS for not understanding democracy. Picture: AP Photo/Eraldo Peres

Pretoria - The Israeli Embassy in Pretoria said on Thursday it was not permanently closing its doors, and criticised Palestinian support group Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) for not understanding democracy. 

Israeli embassies and consulates worldwide closed on Wednesday as diplomats and military attachés went on strike in a longstanding dispute with their finance ministry over stipends paid to envoys.

BDS had issued a statement "celebrating the closure of Israeli diplomatic missions across the world, particularly the Israeli Embassy in Pretoria".

"After one day, we have returned to work to ensure cooperation between Israel and South Africa. We are organising more Christian delegations - increasing religious ties. We are continuing to connect towns to water, we are reaching townships to increase opportunities for entrepreneurs. We will continue to promote the relations between our countries," said the embassy's deputy chief of mission, Ayellet Black, following an enquiry by African News Agency (ANA).

"As usual, the statements from BDS lack credibility. The embassy was on strike due to a decision made by the Israeli ministry of finance, as happens in many democracies. Clearly, understanding democracy is not BDS' strong point," said Black. 

BDS South Africa's Tisetso Magama called the embassy "irrelevant".

"It is apparent that the primary purpose of Israel's foreign missions is to promote propaganda for the Israeli regime with no benefit to host countries - this is perhaps evident in no one even having noticed the Israeli embassy's closure. The Israeli embassy is proving, on its own, that it is indeed insignificant and irrelevant. It is clear that there is no economic or political benefit in having relations with an apartheid state," said Magama.

"BDS SA considers the closure of Israeli embassies and consulates as evidence that Israel is at war with itself. We are also amused and find it ironic that Israel shifted funds from its running of embassies and other offices to try and stop the BDS boycott of Israel, but now lacks resources to sustain those embassies." 

"The closing of the Israeli embassy in South Africa, until the regime ends its oppression of Palestinians, is one of BDS South Africa's goals - this recent closure, even if temporary, is a step in the right direction," said Magama.

On Wednesday, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) also welcomed the closing of the mission.

"Nehawu notes the closure of the Israeli embassy in South Africa. We welcome this and add our voice to those like the BDS who are calling for its permanent closure. Israel must read the writing on the wall, apartheid is expensive and they must end it immediately!"

African News Agency (ANA)