Israel on Wednesday rebuked the South African Parliament for voting to formalize a governmental decision taken four years ago to downgrade its ties with the Jewish state.
“The symbolic resolution taken yesterday by the South African Parliament calling for the downgrading of relations between South Africa and Israel is shameful and disgraceful,” the Foreign Ministry said.
“Even as a symbolic resolution, it does not contribute in the least to the promotion of any viable solution in the Middle East,” it added.
A symbolic move
The move comes as Israel is pushing to expand its ties with Muslim and Middle Eastern states.
“At a time when many African and Muslim countries are strengthening and deepening ties with the State of Israel for the benefit of everyone’s common interests, it is unfortunate that South Africa continues to adhere to anachronism and the deterioration of relations, a move that will only harm South Africa itself and its standing,” the Foreign Ministry said.
South Africa recalled its ambassador from Israel in 2018 to protest the IDF’s response to Palestinian rioters along the southern border with Gaza during the Hamas-led Great March of Return.
One year later, it decided to downgrade its diplomatic ties with Israel and give its embassy in Israel the status of a liaison office.
On Tuesday, the South African Parliament voted on a resolution to downgrade those ties, a symbolic move, given that action on this was taken by the government four years ago.
“This is a historic moment for our country and a demonstration of our unwavering commitment to justice, human rights, and freedom,” South Africa’s National Freedom Party said in a statement after the vote.
Freedom for Palestinians
NFP Member of Parliament Ahmed Munzoor Shaik Emam said: “Today we took a step closer to the attainment of that freedom for Palestinians.”
“By passing this resolution, we are sending a powerful message to the world that South Africa remains a beacon of hope and a shining example of what is possible when we come together in pursuit of a more just and equitable world... This resolution demands accountability from Israel,” he said. “It is a courageous move that demonstrates our commitment as a country to justice, human rights and freedom.
“The state of Israel was built through the displacement, murder, and maiming of Palestinians. And to maintain their grip on power, they have instituted Apartheid to control and manage Palestinians. This institution of Apartheid by the State of Israel contravenes international law and is a violation of the human rights of Palestinians,” Shaik Emam said.
The African Christian Democratic Party opposed the move and said it was “appalled at today’s vote in Parliament calling for the downgrade of the SA embassy in Israel – carried 208 to 94.”
The South African Zionist Federation said their country deserved better from its leaders.
“Instead of diverting our attention to the conflict between the Palestinians and Israel, Parliament ought to take a position against Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine,” it said in a statement. “The ANC government has created a foreign policy that aims to befriend dictatorships and bash democracies. It obsesses over Israel, which is the size of our Kruger National Park, and at the same [time] hosts navy war drills with Russia, responsible for horrific war crimes and the deaths of thousands of innocent Ukrainian civilians over the past year.”
“South Africans haven’t called for a downgrade of the South African embassy in Israel. But they have called, in numbers, for an end to the close friendships between the ANC government and international pariahs,” it added.
“The SAZF calls on the ANC government to end its hostility towards the state of Israel, which remains a partner for development for all African countries. In 2023 alone, political parties and public representatives from Angola, Chad, Papua New Guinea and Sudan have all made moves to grow their diplomatic relations with Israel. It is time for South Africa to do the same,” the Zionist Federation said.