The ANC national policy conference has adopted a policy recommendation made by the ANC in the Western Cape to downgrade the South African embassy in Israel to a liaison office in a bid to reduce diplomatic ties to Israel.
ANC Western Cape provincial secretary Faiez Jacobs told the Mail & Guardian that a debate had taken place as to whether the embassy should be shutdown or to gradually reduce its function in Israel.
“The initial call by some provinces was that we close our embassy in Israel. However, a consensus agreement was reached that we recommend a downgrade to a Liaison Office,” Jacobs said.
On Tuesday, the NPC adopted the downgrade recommendation and it is set to be ratified in December at the ANC’s elective conference, Jacobs said. The ANC Western Cape has called it the Oliver Tambo Resolution, after the stalwart.
The resolution on the downgrade reads: “The commission called for the downgrading of the SA Embassy in Israel to send a strong message about Israel’s continued illegal occupation of Palestine and the continued human rights abuses against the peoples of Palestine”.
The ANC Western Cape made the recommendation because it says Israel has continued to treat Palestine with violence instead of attempting to reach a peace agreement.
“Our embassy has failed to achieve its necessary political objective over the past 22 years in moving Israel closer to a resolution on the Palestinian question,” Jacobs said.
The Palestinian government has backed a two-state solution which would mean that both Israel and Palestine are recognised as sovereign states. Israel, meanwhile, has refused to endorse a two-state solution.
The ANC has also supported a two-state solution. Jacobs said that the main functions of the liaison office in Israel will be to provide consular services and it will not have “full diplomatic status in the country”.
While the ANC NPC has adopted the policy recommendation, the party’s national conference in December will still have to approve the resolution before it is final and government can implement it.
The government will continue to have diplomatic relations with Israel, however, because the Israeli embassy in South Africa will continue to be active. Jacobs believes that Israel might respond by downgrading its embassy, too.
“For now, it’s [the Israeli embassy] is still active. However, in all likelihood the Israelis will reciprocate with a downgrade or withdrawal,” he said.