Mixed reviews as Ramaphosa welcomes new Israeli ambassador to South Africa



Published Jan 27, 2022


PRETORIA – President Cyril Ramaphosa has received Letters of Credence from ambassadors and high commissioners-designate who have been designated by the governments of at least 13 countries who have now start serving officially in diplomatic missions in South Africa.

Ramaphosa met and officially welcomed heads of mission from countries on Tuesday; including Malawi, Argentine Republic, Romania, Israel, Equatorial Guinea, Trinidad and Tobago, Ecuador, Republic of Congo, Mexico, Hellenic Republic, Algeria, New Zealand and Cuba.

Considering the salient relations between South Africa and Israel, there has been mixed reactions in the public discourse over the arrival of newly appointed Israeli Ambassador to South Africa, Eliav Belotsecovsky.

Last year, Pretoria led the charge in opposing Israel’s observer status at the AU. At the time, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) said the South African government was “appalled” at the AU’s decision which granted Israel an official observer status.

Dirco spokesperson Clayson Monyela insisted that Israel continues to illegally occupy Palestine in complete defiance of its international obligations and relevant UN resolutions.

This week, after Ramaphosa welcomed the Israeli top envoy, the South African Communist Party (SACP) said the government has failed to implement the resolutions of the ruling ANC.

“In 2017 December, the African National Congress at its 54th national conference resolved to give practical support to the oppressed people of Palestine, and for South Africa to immediately take steps to downgrade its embassy in Israel to a liaison office,” SACP national spokesperson Alex Mashilo told the SABC.

PRESIDENT Cyril Ramaphosa has welcomed newly appointed Israeli Ambassador to South Africa, Eliav Belotsecovsky. Photo: Presidency

Cosatu reacted to Belotsecovsky’s arrival in South Africa as “disappointing”.

On the other hand, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) has commended President Cyril Ramaphosa for accepting Belotsecovsky’s credentials and welcoming him to South Africa.

“The SAJBD has consistently expressed the belief that our government can play an important and unique role in peace-making efforts between Israelis and Palestinians. Hopefully, the commencement of the new Israeli ambassador’s term will signal a change, resulting in South Africa re-engaging in the region and having a positive influence in achieving a negotiated two-state solution,” said SAJBD’s spokesperson Charisse Zeifert.

“South Africa is well-placed to help the Palestinian friends engage with Israel and assist them attain independence in their own state, alongside the Jewish state, within secure, mutually agreed borders.”

The South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) has extended “a heartfelt and warm welcome” to Belotsecovsky, and urged the South African government to view Israel as an important ally, partner and friend in Africa and the Middle East.

“We ask the South African government to tone down its anti-Israel rhetoric and become pragmatic as to how our country can benefit from positive relations with Israel and all she has to offer. Nor does our government need to be “anti-Israel” in order to show support for ordinary Palestinians,” said SAZF national chairman Rowan Polovin.

“South Africa is in a unique position, much like Egypt, to speak with both Israel and her self-declared enemies, and not only can facilitate positive improvements for Palestinians but particularly bring the divided Palestinian leadership to the peace table, where Israel is forever waiting.”

Polovin said Israel has much to offer South Africa in terms of cutting-edge technology and innovation which can assist in our challenges of water, electricity and renewable energy.

“Partnering with Israel can only better the lives of South Africans across our beloved country, as Israel has done in many parts of the Middle East and Africa. We look forward to a positive and productive future between South Africa and Israel.”