Tuesday, November 24, 2020

South African government downgrades Israeli diplomatic relations in support of Palestine

By Myriam Purtscher - April 07, 2019
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [Apartheid] [Human rights]

The South African government has implemented what they refer to as 'stage one’ of downgrading diplomatic relations with Israel by permanently withdrawing their ambassador from Tel Aviv.

During the first stage, the South African full-service embassy in Tel Aviv has also be reduced to a liaison office and diplomatic mission with limited functionality.

South African Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Lindiwe Sisulu announced the downgrading in an address to the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

“We are in the process of following the downgrade resolution of the ruling party and stage one has been completed,” Sisulu said.


“Our ambassador is back in South Africa and we will not be replacing him. Our liaison office in Tel Aviv will have no political mandate, no trade mandate and no development co-operation mandate.”

Israel’s Foreign Ministry has made no immediate comment on her statement.

The decision to cut diplomatic ties with Israel came in 2017 after South Africa’s ruling party, African National Congress (ANC), passed a resolution directing the South African government to “immediately and unconditionally downgrade the South African embassy in Israel to a liaison office”.

The ANC initiated the resolution to uphold “a practical expression of support [for] the oppressed people of Palestine” by using diplomatic pressure on Israel to end the occupation of the Palestinian Territories.

Head of the Palestine National Initiative, Dr Mustafa Bargouthi told Palestine Monitor he has welcomed the move by South Africa.

“We appreciate this act by South Africa because it represents a serious response to Israel violating international law,” Bargouthi said. “This includes the illegal annexation of East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and settlement activities.”   

Hamas has also publicly praised the downgrading with Hamas spokesperson Basem Naim stating in Middle East Monitor, “we thank South Africa for the steps it has taken to express its anger at the apartheid policy of the Israeli occupation state.”

According to local South African news site the Daily Maverick, Sisulu has implied the Israeli ambassador in South Africa, Lior Keinan, may be removed from his position during following downgrading stages.

“The ambassador in Israel in South Africa is still an ambassador here until such time as we have adopted fully the resolutions of the ANC conference,” Sisulu said.

Israeli ambassador Keinan said on Thursday he had “no comment regarding South African policymaking.”




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