South Africa’s ruling party: Israel ties hang in the balance

‘Trump’s J’lem decision has hardened us’ • Country’s largest university announces boycott

December 14, 2017 02:43
2 minute read.
A protestor outside the Israeli embassy in Pretoria, South Africa

A protester and member of South Africa's ultra-left Economic Freedom Fighters party (EFF), carries a placard outside the Israeli embassy in Pretoria, South Africa. (photo credit: SIPHIWE SIBEKO/REUTERS)


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South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress, has condemned “in the strongest possible terms” US President Donald Trump’s decision to name Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte said the move was as bad as the US throwing a “hand grenade right into the midst of the Palestinian people.”

“This blatantly provocative move severely undermines the spirit of multilateralism and is a significant setback to a fragile and already stalled peace process,” she said. “The ANC concurs with the sentiments expressed by many world leaders that the US position is a violation of a number of UN Security Council and UN General Assembly resolutions regarding the status of Jerusalem in any final settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians.”

“What he [Trump] has done is hardened the attitudes of the ANC,” she said.

Duarte’s comments come as the ANC prepares for its 54th National Conference, where it will decide whether or not to downgrade South Africa’s Embassy in Israel.

She said the party was discussing paths towards a peaceful solution and how to continue assisting the people of Palestine. “As the ANC prepares for its National Conference, South Africa’s future relations with Israel hangs in the balance and rightly so.”

According to South Africa’s News24, Duarte said two proposals were under consideration and would be discussed during the conference – the first being to downgrade South Africa’s representation in Israel and the second to completely cut diplomatic ties.

“If we had been given an opportunity where we were more resolute, without this added pressure, we might have found ourselves looking at the repercussions of our decisions, consequences and looking at everything that involves peacemaking,” Duarte said.

In response, South African Zionist Federation chairman Ben Swartz said that the greatest costs – the real “downgrade” – would be in terms of South Africa’s diplomatic influence.

“A downgrade would represent an abandonment of diplomacy. Diplomacy is conducted not only among friends, but between opponents,” he said. “Indeed, it is precisely when states disagree that diplomacy is most important. A few years ago, South Africa was strongly opposed to the US-led coalition invading Iraq – but kept a large embassy in Washington to keep channels of communication open. This is the crux of the matter.

“South Africa maintains relationships with any number of countries with conflicting interests and doubtful records on human rights – somewhat ironically, as it debates its ties with Israel, South Africa is restoring relations with Morocco, despite the latter’s occupation of Western Sahara,” Swartz added.

Meanwhile, South Africa’s biggest university, the Tshwane University of Technology in Pretoria, announced an academic boycott of Israel.

In a statement released earlier this week, the university said that TUT’s council formally approved a recommendation by the Institutional Forum that it will not have any ties with Israel, Israeli organizations and institutions.

“As a progressive university in a democratic South Africa, we want to affirm that TUT will not sign any agreements or enter into scientific partnerships with any Israeli organization or institution until such time that Israel ends its illegal occupation of Palestinian territory,” it said.

“TUT furthermore supports the call by various bodies, including student bodies and other progressive organizations to boycott Israel and Israeli institutions for as long as Israel continues to violate the basic human rights of the Palestinian people, as well as international laws.”

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