South Africa reacts to Trump’s declaration
Trump also announced plans to relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move that many believe will inflame tensions in the region, unsettling any peace process.
ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe said it was a “very ill-considered decision which goes against all UN resolutions. We believe that a two-state solution is still a better option and President Trump seems to deny the existence of the people of Palestine.”
However, the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) welcomed the move. SAZF Chairman Ben Swartz said: “We firmly believe that this does not detract in any way from the position that a two-state solution for two peoples (being the Jews and the Palestinians) remains the only viable solution to the conflict in the Holy Land.
“With that in mind, we implore all parties to the conflict to engage in constructive and direct negotiations as soon as possible.”
Wendy Kahn, national director of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), said on hearing the news: “The SAJBD notes the statement by President Trump and continues to appeal to all stakeholders to persistently encourage Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate towards a peaceful solution to their tragic conflict.
“Our plea to world leaders, including our own government, is to actively engage to assist in the achievement of two states for two peoples,” she said.
“We believe that the South African government has a unique role to play in bringing about peace. Peace-building is not an easy process, and we encourage our government to continue to engage with the Palestinians and Israelis to find a solution.”
Steven Gruzd, political analyst at the South African Institute of International Affairs, said this was potentially an explosive issue.
“Look what happened a few months ago with tensions around the Temple Mount in Jerusalem when Israel installed checkpoints. It had to backtrack after an international outcry,” he said.
While Israel considers Jerusalem its “eternal capital”, most countries do not, and house their embassies in Tel Aviv, according to Gruzd. “Under the 1947 UN partition plan, the city was meant to belong to neither side. When Israel captured East Jerusalem 50 years ago in the Six Day War, it annexed these areas soon after. But the international community did not recognise this, and the Palestinians insist that East Jerusalem should be the capital of their future state,” he said.
“South Africa is likely to vehemently oppose this move. And one wonders what effect it may have on the proposal to downgrade the South African embassy in Israel, set to be debated at the ANC elective conference starting on December 16.”
Meanwhile, CSO Gauteng Director of Operations Jevon Greenblatt said on Wednesday they recognised that the announcement by the US president could lead to a backlash, both locally and globally. “We are already seeing heightened aggression on social media in response to this announcement,” he said.
“We have no specific information of a direct threat to our community. However, as a precaution, we are raising the threat level and are urging our community to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity or concerns to the CSO control room immediately on 086 18000 18.
“At times like these, where tensions are high, it is imperative to take every security precaution to ensure the safety of your installation and your family members,” he said.
“There is always radical extremism out there and the Jewish community is one of the main targets. Robust security measures are in place, threats are real and relevant and present here and in the rest of the world.”
Social media was abuzz with reactions.
Radio personality and journalist Redi Thlabi tweeted: “World leaders, except Netanyahu said “Don’t do it”…he did it. They LOVE each other, these two.”
South African novelist Tom Eaton tweeted: “Just spitballing here but if I were the president of world’s 2nd-biggest producer of oil and I wanted to ensure high prices for my buddies, I might decide to deliberately stoke tensions in the Middle East. Hypothetically. #Jerusalem”.
Evita Bezuidenhout, the alter ego of comedian Pieter-Dirk Uys, had the last tweet: “After claiming #Jerusalem as the capital of #Israel, what is Donald going to do next? Build the #TRUMP Temple on the Mount?”