Friday, 28 January 2022
Pretoria: The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) says it has noted comments and questions regarding the status of diplomatic relations between South Africa and Israel.
The department believes that the debate appears to have been prompted by President Cyril Ramaphosa accepting a letter of credence from the Ambassador of Israel on Tuesday.
“South Africa currently does not have an Ambassador in Israel. South Africa decided to recall our Ambassador in 2018 as part of processes to downgrade our diplomatic presence in Israel,” the department explained.
However, according to DIRCO, post-apartheid South Africa and Israel have maintained formal diplomatic ties to date.
“In part, a diplomatic presence has allowed South Africa to play a role with its international partners in the ongoing efforts to end the occupation of Palestine.”
The department said South Africa has been “consistent” and “unwavering” in its principled support for the struggle of the Palestinian people in their struggles against the occupation.
“Our country draws a direct parallel between the former apartheid regime and the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. Like the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), we consider Palestine, together with Western Sahara, as unfinished decolonisation struggles. This has been a priority on our foreign policy agenda since former President Nelson Mandela’s time in office.”
The department said the country has also taken the support for Palestine to multilateral platforms, acting as a catalyst and amplifier of its positions on the international stage.
“We have initiated and supported countless draft resolutions in favour of Palestine, gone to every open United Nations Security Council meeting addressing the Palestinian question and held consistent voting behaviour since 1994.”
In addition, the country said it backed the Palestinian UN bid for statehood and the 2009 ‘Palestine 194’ diplomatic campaign, defended it in all peace conferences and used its influence to counter recent Israeli diplomatic offensives that could have proved harmful to Palestinian ties to other African countries.
“Over the last two years, South Africa has been instrumental in stepping up pressure on the government of Israel.”
Meanwhile, South Africa has partnered with Namibia, Palestinian Human Rights Organisations, Israeli Human Rights Organisations and international legal scholars, to speed up discussions on whether the actions of the Israeli government contravenes international legal prohibitions on the crime of apartheid.
“Organisations like Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem, the largest Israeli human rights organisation have found that the actions of the government of Israel have been akin to apartheid.”
The department is also waiting for the release of the Special Rapporteur of the Occupied Palestinian Territories report and the International Court of Justice’s legal opinion, which may lead South Africa and other countries to review its diplomatic stance about the Israeli government.
“The situation is dynamic and South Africa will ensure that its diplomatic presence is strategic and geared towards ending the occupation. South Africa is determined to continue working with the international community to launch a credible, time-bound, multilaterally sponsored political process to resolve the issue of the Palestinian cause based on international law.
“In this regard, South Africa will continue to support concrete and genuine efforts towards achieving this just and lasting solution, which we believe will greatly contribute to peace, justice and stability in that region.”