South African parliament votes to close Israeli embassy


CAPE TOWN – South Africa's National Assembly has passed a motion to close the Israeli embassy in Pretoria and end all diplomatic relations with the Jewish state, amid the escalating conflict in Gaza.

South Africa Parliament votes to close Israeli embassy
Image: GCIS/Flickr

Titled "Closure of the Israel Embassy in South Africa and suspension of all diplomatic relations with Israel", the resolution had been tabled for debate last week—it was proposed by the radical Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party, and was backed by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party, which added an amendment that the resolution would depend on Israel reaching a ceasefire with Palestine.

The vote, which took place on Tuesday afternoon, was a result of a heated debate that started last week, when the EFF urged the government to expel Israel's ambassador and recall its own envoy from Tel Aviv.

EFF leader Julius Malema praised the ANC for its support, saying: "We want to applaud the ANC for its maturity on this matter. It doesn’t matter how we can disagree but when it comes to the issue of humanity we must protect the human rights of human beings all over the world."

The motion was passed by 248 votes, with the backing of EFF, ATM, Al Jama-ah, NFP, PAC and ANC.

ANC Chief Whip Pemmy Majodina said: "We do believe that in the case of Israel, it is the head of state who needs to have an arrest warrant used against him because we believe the evidence required is overwhelming."

She also dismissed the notion that the war was a religious one, as some parliamentarians claimed, and joined the chorus of "Free Free Palestine" that echoed in the house.

The main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), and several other parties voted against the motion, which still passed with the support of the ANC, which has a majority in the 400-seat chamber.

The DA argued that the motion was counter-productive and would harm the interests of 25,000 South Africans living in Israel.

DA member of Parliament Emma Powell said: "This motion actually runs counter-intuitive to the ANC’s stated aim of having a genuine stake in negotiating a peaceful resolution to this crisis, because by withdrawing diplomatic representation from Israel and expelling or demarche the Israeli embassy in South Africa we are severing diplomatic ties and therefore we have no genuine stake in playing a meaningful role in negotiating a peaceful resolution. And may I also say there are 25-thousand South Africans that will now not have any access to consular services."

South Africa has already withdrawn all of its diplomats from Tel Aviv for consultation over Israel's ongoing assault in Gaza, which has killed more than 200 Palestinians and 10 Israelis so far.

"Genocide under the watch of the international community cannot be tolerated. Another holocaust in the history of humankind is not acceptable," Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni told reporters earlier this month.

Israel, meanwhile, said this week that it was recalling its ambassador in South Africa for consultations, in a sign of strained relations between the two countries.

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