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Op-eds

Future of the SA embassy in Israel

  • Jeff
Largely buried in the flood of media reports generated by last week’s ANC policy conference, was a recommendation by the party’s International Relations Commission that the South African embassy in Tel Aviv, be downgraded as a result of Israel’s policies regarding the Palestinians.
by JEFF KATZ | Jul 13, 2017

Some people in our community have erroneously concluded that this is not, or at least will inevitably in the future, become government policy. In fact, as things stand the proposal to downgrade diplomatic ties is just one of many policy recommendations that have come out of the conference.

The next step will be for it to be further considered and debated, with input from a wide range of stakeholders, in order to assess the likely impact for South Africa downgrading the embassy.

Minister Edna Molewa, who heads up the ANC National Executive Committee Subcommittee on International Relations, and was chairman of the International Relations Commission during the ANC National Policy Conference, assured our National President Mary Kluk, that the SAJBD would be fully consulted and be part of its investigations.

Finally, the recommendation will be taken to the ANC’s National Elective Conference in December, where delegates will vote on whether or not to adopt it.

The policy of the ANC and the South African government on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, remains today what it has always been, one of a two-state solution through a negotiated settlement between both parties. The SAJBD likewise supports the negotiation of a two-state solution between the parties.

We will continue to engage with the ANC in endeavouring to work towards this goal while strongly opposing attempts by radical lobbies driven not by a desire for peace, but a hatred for Israel and to weaken the South Africa-Israel relationship.  

The concerns raised must, however, be seen against continued progress that Israel is making in the global diplomatic field.

Even as the ANC was discussing downgrading the South African embassy in Israel, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was paying the first-ever official state visit to Israel by an Indian head of state.

Once hostile to Israel in the international arena, India and Israel today have extensive and rapidly growing trade and diplomatic ties, as well as an increasing co-operation in security and related matters.

Prime Minister Modi’s visit was followed immediately afterwards by that of Rwanda's President Paul Kagame, personifying the closer ties between Africa and Israel. There is even a strong likelihood of Israel obtaining observer status at the African Union.

All in all, South Africa would be on the wrong side of history were it to decide to downgrade diplomatic relations with Israel, with such a move in effect being no more than an empty gesture, more likely to side-line South Africa as a credible international player, rather than isolating Israel.

Given the current divisions and uncertainty within the ANC, it was predictable that hard-line anti-Israel factions would seize the opportunity to push their agenda, but we remain hopeful and confident that ultimately rationality will prevail and that the party will decide against upsetting the status quo. 

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