/ 16 November 2023

ANC to back amended EFF motion to cut diplomatic ties with Israel

The ANC says it will support the motion in parliament by Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema that South Africa cut diplomatic ties with Tel Aviv and close Israel’s embassy.

The ANC says it will support the motion in parliament by Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema that South Africa cut diplomatic ties with Tel Aviv and close Israel’s embassy.

But it wants the motion amended to allow some form of diplomatic channels with Israel to remain, so that South Africa maintains its ability to talk to both sides and influence the situation.

Parliamentarians will vote next week on the motion, in which Malema called on President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government to “shut down the Israeli embassy in Pretoria and end all diplomatic relations with the brutal apartheid Israeli regime”.

The National Freedom Party, Al Jamah-ah and the Good party backed the motion, which was opposed by the Democratic Alliance, the Inkatha Freedom Party, the African Christian Democratic Party and the Freedom Front Plus.

Tabling the motion in a hybrid session of the National Assembly, Malema said South Africa must end relations with Israel “in the name of our own constitutional values: 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,” he said.

The EFF leader called for the international isolation of Israel over the violence in Gaza, in which more than 11 000 Palestinians have been killed in retaliatory attacks for the 7 October raids by Hamas on Israeli settlements adjacent to the border wall which claimed some 1 400 lives.

“We therefore call on the world to isolate Israel through boycotts, disinvestment and sanctions until they end their military occupation, and allow Palestinian refugees in surrounding countries like Lebanon and Syria the right of return,” Malema said.

His motion comes after the announcement by Ramaphosa on the sidelines of a two-day state visit to Qatar on Wednesday that South Africa had referred Israel to the International Criminal Court for what it believed were war crimes in Gaza.

Pretoria has also recalled South Africa’s diplomatic liaison team from Tel Aviv — the ambassador was withdrawn in 2018 — and has démarched Israel’s current envoy to Pretoria, Eliav Belotsercovsky.

ANC MP Hope Papo said the party backed the resolution, but asked for discussions with the EFF to “create an important tactical balance” between taking action against Israeli aggression and maintaining “our ability to have influence on the situation”.

Should they not do so, the ANC would table its own motion and use its majority in the house to pass it, Papo said, adding that decisions should not isolate South Africa from the rest of the continent and the region and weaken its diplomatic ability.

“We should not move alone on difficult matters such as this one,” he said.

DA MP Emma Powell said that it was “vital” for South Africa to retain diplomatic channels with both Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

“The ANC’s decision to withdraw diplomats from Tel Aviv, and the EFF’s proposed expulsion of the Israeli ambassador from South Africa, will simply diminish our country’s ability to demand accountability in the region, and to influence a swift and peaceful resolution to this abhorrent war,” she said.

Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Mulder said the party opposed the motion because cutting diplomatic ties would have a “direct impact” on the South Africa diplomatic mission to Palestine.

Mulder said the South African team had an office in Ramallah but lived in Bethlehem, commuting daily, and would not be able to secure access through Israeli controlled territory to do its work.

MPs paid tribute to the Gift of the Givers head in Gaza, Ahmed Abbasi, who was shot dead by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) on his way home from attending mosque on Wednesday.

The killing of Abbasi has sparked outrage, as has the killing of more than 100 United Nations workers in Gaza by the IDF since the attacks in retaliation for the Hamas raid last month began.