In a historic motion, South Africa’s Parliament has voted in favor of closing Israel’s embassy in Pretoria and suspending diplomatic ties. The motion, introduced by the opposition party Economic Freedom Fighters and supported by the ruling African National Congress, highlights the growing tensions between the two countries in the wake of the Israeli assault on Gaza.
While the closure of the embassy and the suspension of diplomatic relations may seem like strong symbolic gestures, it ultimately falls on President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government to decide whether to implement them. The motion passed with 248 votes in favor and 91 votes against, reflecting a clear message from the South African lawmakers.
One of the main driving forces behind this decision is President Ramaphosa’s belief that Israel is committing war crimes and genocide in Gaza. The ongoing assault on the besieged Gaza Strip has caused immense suffering, with Palestinian authorities reporting over 14,100 deaths since October 7. Meanwhile, authorities in Israel claim that the conflict was sparked by a surprise attack from the Palestinian armed group, Hamas, resulting in the deaths of approximately 1,200 people.
South Africa’s historic support for the Palestinian cause is deeply rooted. The country has been a longstanding advocate for Palestinian statehood and has drawn parallels between the Israeli occupation and its own history of apartheid. This sentiment is echoed by numerous international rights groups that accuse Israel of enforcing apartheid-like policies towards the Palestinians, an accusation vehemently denied by Israel.
The timing of the embassy closure motion coincides with Israel’s decision to recall Ambassador Eli Belotserkovsky from Pretoria “for consultations.” Although South Africa has not had an ambassador in Israel since 2018, this move highlights the strained relationship between the two nations.
It is important to note that South Africa’s concerns extend beyond the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On the same day as the embassy closure motion, South Africa hosted a virtual summit of the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa). During the summit, a joint statement was issued calling for an “immediate, durable, and sustained humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities” in Gaza. This demonstrates the country’s commitment to promoting peace not only in the region but globally.
President Ramaphosa, in a social media post, expressed the need for collective action to address the suffering in Gaza and work towards a just and secure future for both Palestinians and Israelis.
1. Why did South Africa vote to close Israel’s embassy?
South Africa’s Parliament voted in favor of closing Israel’s embassy in Pretoria as a symbolic gesture to protest against what they believe are war crimes and genocide committed by Israel in the Gaza Strip.
2. Will the closure of the embassy have a significant impact?
The closure of the embassy is largely symbolic, as the decision to implement it rests with President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government. However, it sends a strong message regarding South Africa’s stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
3. Why does South Africa support the Palestinian cause?
South Africa has a longstanding history of supporting the Palestinian cause for statehood. Many in South Africa draw parallels between the Israeli occupation and the country’s own history of apartheid.
4. How does Israel respond to accusations of apartheid-like policies?
Israel vehemently denies accusations of enforcing apartheid-like policies towards the Palestinians. However, various international rights groups have raised concerns and labeled Israeli policies as constituting the crime of apartheid.
5. What other actions has South Africa taken in support of Gaza?
Aside from the embassy closure motion, South Africa, along with other BRICS nations, called for an immediate humanitarian truce and cessation of hostilities in Gaza during a virtual summit. This underscores South Africa’s commitment to promoting peace globally.