Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni has announced that Cabinet has decided to withdraw all its diplomats from Israel following the bombing of Gaza and escalation of the conflict over the last few weeks.
“The South African government has decided to withdraw all its diplomats in Tel Aviv for consultation,” said Ntshavheni.
“That recall for consultation is a serious signal that South Africa takes a very dim view of the situation that is permeating in that part of the world.”
Ntshavheni said the fact they have decided to take this step of withdrawing diplomats from Tel Aviv shows South Africa was taking a dim view of the situation in the Middle East.
She said they were also concerned about the remarks made by Israel’s ambassador to South Africa Eliav Belotserkovsky and have asked the Department of International Relations and Cooperation to take measures against him.
“Cabinet has also noted the continuing disparaging remarks of the Israeli ambassador to South Africa about those who are opposing atrocities and the genocide of the Israeli government,” Ntshavheni said.
“This is despite the condemnation by the previous ambassadors of Israel to South Africa, who were clear that the acts of the Israeli government are a repeat of apartheid and are no different to the apartheid antics,” she said.
“The position of the ambassador of Israel to South Africa is becoming very untenable. Cabinet has decided to instruct Dirco to take necessary measures within diplomatic channels and protocols to deal with the conduct of the ambassador of Israel to South Africa.”
Ntshavheni would not say what measures the department would take against the ambassador, but she said his comments were unacceptable as he was a guest in the country.
Ntshavheni was briefing the media on Monday on the Cabinet meeting. She said they will leave everything in the hands of the department.
The department will inform government later after it has completed this process.
“On what will be done to the ambassador that is why we leave it to Dirco. They are the experts of what should be done to the ambassador,” said Ntshavheni.
“Our response as Cabinet is to instruct them to say the conduct and remarks of that ambassador are unacceptable. He is a guest in our country and he must conduct himself as a guest in our country.”
Ntshavheni said the Cabinet had previously raised serious concern about the killing of civilians in Gaza and the unfolding humanitarian crisis.
The cabinet had also called for the International Criminal Court to investigate war crimes in Middle East. ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan was in the Rafah border crossing a few weeks ago and he could not get into Gaza to document what was happening there because of the conflict.
He said this matter was receiving attention from his office.