‘Let us be on right side of history on Israel-Palestine conflict’

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Nentanyahu. Picture: AFP

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Nentanyahu. Picture: AFP

Published Mar 2, 2023


Deputy Minister of International Relations Alvin Botes says South Africa still believes a peaceful solution was still possible in the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

This follows a debate in Parliament on Thursday for the downgrading of South Africa’s embassy in Israel to a liaison office.

The motion was tabled by NFP member Ahmed Munzoor Shaik Emam who said the escalation of the violence and occupation of Palestinian territories by Israel required action by the world.

Botes told the House that South Africa recalled its ambassador in Israel in May 2018 and the mission in Tel Aviv was now headed by a Charge d’Affaires.

The decision followed the ANC conference resolution in 2017 for the country to downgrade its embassy in Israel to a liaison office.

Botes said they have a moral obligation to support the Palestinians.

They have since launched a strategic dialogue with Palestine to galvanise its support on the African continent and the world.

Botes said they also supported the African Union’s decision to remove an Israeli diplomat at the summit in Addis Ababa two weeks ago.

“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,” said Botes.

The EFF said it did not want the downgrading of the embassy into a liaison office, but a complete closure of that office.

EFF member Thembi Msane said the ANC was indecisive on the matter.

Mergan Chetty of the DA said the debate was used by political parties to pick a side in the Israeli-Palestine conflict instead of pushing for peace.

He said nothing will be achieved through divisions.

South Africa had walked this path during apartheid, it can do the same for a peaceful resolution in the Middle East, said Chetty.

NFP member Ahmed Munzoor Shaik Emam, who tabled the motion, said a solution was needed in the Middle East.

He called on South Africa to be on the right side of history.

They cannot allow the continued escalation of the violence and human rights abuses against the Palestinians.

“The NFP therefore urges all members of parliament to support this resolution and stand with us in the pursuit of justice, equality and freedom. Let us put aside our political differences and unite in taking a meaningful stand against the apartheid practices of Israel. Let us be on the right side of history. Let us honour the legacy of Nelson Mandela and all those who fought for freedom and justice. Let us send a message to the world that South Africa will not be passive or neutral about oppression and human rights violations anywhere. Let us create a true society where all can live freely,” said Shaik Emam.

Bernice Swarts of the ANC said the situation in the Middle East remained volatile.

This is despite the visit by US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to the Middle East in February. This followed that of the visit to the Middle East by US President Joe Biden in January last year.

ACDP deputy leader Wayne Thring said his party differed with other parties ideologically and on the position on what needs to happen in the region.

“I wish to make it clear that the ACDP is guided by a biblical worldview. Underscoring this view is the recognition of our Judeo-Christian historical background. It bears repeating, our Messiah Jesus Christ was born a Jew while those with different views from ours draw inspiration from books like Karl Marx, Stalin, Mao Zedong and Charles Darwin. We would in the ACDP draw our inspiration and guidance from our holy book, the bible,” said Thring.

He added that the downgrade will not benefit the Palestinians. But it will remove South Africa’s ability to be a meditator in the conflict.

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