Parties at loggerheads over Israel-Palestine conflict

EFF leader Julius Malema has called on government to shut down the Israeli embassy. File Picture: Timothy Bernard / Independent Newspapers

EFF leader Julius Malema has called on government to shut down the Israeli embassy. File Picture: Timothy Bernard / Independent Newspapers

Published Nov 16, 2023


The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and the African National Congress (ANC) have called for the isolation of Israel, saying cutting diplomatic ties with Tel Aviv will force it to stop its attacks on civilians in the Gaza Strip.

But the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and the Democratic Alliance (DA) warned that cutting diplomatic relations with Israel would not solve the problem and could backfire on South Africa.

They said this would put South Africa in a difficult position as it would not be able to be part of any negotiations to find peace in the Middle East.

EFF leader Julius Malema, who tabled the motion on Thursday calling for government to cut ties with Israel, said President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government must shut down the Israeli embassy in Pretoria.

He said this will send an unequivocal message to the Israeli government that it has to stop its attacks on civilians in the Gaza Strip.

“We call on the Ramaphosa government to shut down the Israeli embassy in Pretoria and end diplomatic relations with that brutal Israel regime. In the name of our own constitutional values, we must end these relations until the human rights of Palestinians are respected, promoted, and protected. Israel must comply with international law, and until then, any relations with them must be regarded as offensive to our Constitution.

“The president yesterday (on Wednesday) said they are going to send a complaint to the International Criminal Court against Israel and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In line with what the president has said and as survivors of apartheid ourselves, we must fight on the side of the Palestinian people and always be on the side of the weak. We therefore call on members of parliament and the people of South Africa to support the call to remove the Israeli embassy in South Africa,” said Malema.

Chairperson of the portfolio committee on international relations, Supra Mahumapelo, said the military assault on Gaza has led to more than 12,000 people being killed.

He said women, children, and the elderly have borne the brunt of the attacks by Israel in the last five weeks.

Mahumapelo said Netanyahu should be charged by the International Criminal Court for war crimes.

He said Israel has failed to respect international law in its military operations in the Gaza Strip.

The IFP warned that attempts to isolate Israel would not work.

IFP MP Mkhuleko Hlengwa said they have said in the past and will repeat the message again that cutting diplomatic ties with Israel was not the correct decision.

“As the IFP we have stated in this House and today, we reiterate that we do not believe that cutting diplomatic ties with Israel is the best course of action as it relates to the current conflict between Israel and Palestine.

“I therefore wish to reiterate what we said last week in this House: that isolation in a time of war is not a solution. It is tantamount to running away. Recalling ambassadors and removing ambassadors amounts to regressive diplomacy. It is counter-productive to the clarion call for peace and negotiation,” said Hlengwa.

He said if South Africa severed ties with Israel, it would find it difficult to be involved in any peace negotiations.

DA MP Emma Powell said if South Africa cuts ties with Israel, it will not be able to hold anyone accountable in the Middle East or be involved in attempts to find a lasting solution to the conflict.

She accused the ANC of keeping quiet on the conflict in Sudan, where thousands of people have been killed, but has been vocal on the Middle East conflict.

She said the government was not an honest broker in the Middle East.

But National Freedom Party (NFP) MP Ahmed Munzoor Shaik Emam said the Israeli embassy must be closed down.

Senior officials in Israel who are involved in the killing of people in Gaza must face the International Criminal Court, said Shaik Emam.

“The truth is, we must shut down this embassy. Shut it down immediately. Kick out the ambassador. Those that are part and parcel of the atrocities, let’s hand them over to the ICC,” said Shaik Emam.

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