Opposition parties warn government against cutting ties with Israel

While the South African government has shown solidarity with Palestinians, some parties have warned against severing ties with Israel. File photo.
While the South African government has shown solidarity with Palestinians, some parties have warned against severing ties with Israel. File photo.
Image: REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

A number of opposition parties have warned the government against closing the Israeli embassy in South Africa and cutting diplomatic ties with that country.

Participating in the EFF-sponsored debate on Thursday, parties said the move would backfire as South Africa had more to lose than Israel if ties were to be cut.

DA’s Emma Louise Powell the ANC government’s decision to withdraw SA diplomats from Tel Aviv, and the EFF’s proposed expulsion of the Israeli ambassador from South Africa, will simply diminish the country’s ability to demand accountability in the region, and to influence a swift and peaceful resolution to the abhorrent war.

Powell accused the ANC and the EFF of political opportunism in the face of a brutal war, saying the two parties were inherently morally bankrupt.

“Having failed to build a prosperous South Africa, these parties must now look for any opportunity to deepen divisions from which they can score cheap political points.

“This is why, when the ANC and their proxies look to Gaza, they do not see human tragedy, rather, they see political opportunity,” said Powell.

Powell questioned the ANC’s stance on other wars and conflicts, saying if the party cared about international law or human rights, they would have been vocal on these as well.

“The ANC are not peace brokers, they are agent provocateurs. They do not care about international law or human rights, they care only for their own political survival — at whatever cost.

“If the ANC were genuinely interested in peace, human rights, or the rule of law, they would have spoken out against the unspeakable tragedy unfolding in Sudan, where more than 10,000 civilians have been killed amid some of the most brutal ethnic cleansing the world has witnessed in a generation,” she said.

“They would have stood up for the seven million Sudanese people — three million of them children — who have fled into neighbouring countries seeking refuge from the violence, and now comprise the largest displaced population of children anywhere in the world.”

But, despite the gravity of the tragedy unfolding on the African continent, the ANC has not only remained entirely silent but actively worked against advancing peace in the region.

Powell rhetorically questioned why South Africa abstained from a resolution at the UN Human Rights Council, calling for an immediate ceasefire in Sudan last month.

It was because the same resolution called for the establishment of an international fact-finding mission to investigate the root cause of the conflict, much of which can be traced back to the ANC’s failure to arrest Sudanese dictator, Omar al-Bashir, when he visited South Africa in 2015, despite a warrant from the International Criminal Court, she said. 

The IFP said it did not believe cutting diplomatic ties with Israel was the best course of action in relation to the current conflict.

The party’s Mkhuleko Hlengwa reiterated that isolationism in a time of war was not a solution; but was tantamount to running away.

“Recalling or removing ambassadors amounts to regressive diplomacy. It is counter-productive to the clarion call for peace and negotiation.

“How can South Africa possibly contribute towards the Middle East peace process through mediation efforts if we have expelled one of the parties to the said negotiations from our shores?” he said.

Hlengwa said the Israel-Palestine conflict will not be solved by forcefully silencing one of the parties but all voices need to be given an equal opportunity to state their case to resolve the conflict.

While the IFP was in full agreement with a portion of the EFF resolution, which condemns the killing of defenceless children and women in Gaza, no mention was made of the 1,200 Israeli citizens who were killed on October 7, when Hamas attacked Israel. Many of these Israelis were unarmed civilians, including women and children, said Hlengwa.

He called on Israel to restrain itself and to come to the negotiating table with Palestine and Hamas. The IFP advocates for a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, saying this is the key to peace, justice and stability in the Middle East.

“This will require both sides to make concessions in the service of the greater good.”

FF Plus Corné Mulder warned that if South Africa were to sever all diplomatic ties with Israel, the country will no longer be able to play any kind of role in the mediation process.

“It is also interesting to note that so far, not a single Arab country has suspended its relations with Israel. This includes countries such as Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and the UAE.”

Mulder said, while the ANC argued that the Palestinians were entitled to their own homeland and that could not be contested, when Palestinians were offered their own, independent country six times since 1937, none of those offers were accepted.

“According to reports, Algeria proposed at the recent Arab/Islamic summit that Arab ties with Israel should be severed. The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Bahrain, Morocco, Sudan, Mauritania and Djibouti were not in favour of it.”

He warned that South Africa should be careful not to jump the gun concerning Israel. He said such a step would have far-reaching consequences for the country.

Mulder pointed out that Israel was not dependent on its relationship with South Africa, and South Africa would derive much more benefit from maintaining the relationship between the two countries.

“It is opportunistic of the EFF to demand that all ties with Israel be severed, and it would be short-sighted of the ANC government to do so.

“The best decision would be to keep all the channels for dialogue open, to try to find solutions in the interests of all the relevant parties,” said Mulder.

In rejecting the EFF motion, ACDP leader Rev Kenneth Meshoe said to label Israel as an apartheid state was a lie coined by haters of Israel.

“Furthermore, to insinuate that Israel does not own land they are living on is another lie that the ACDP rejects,” he said.

“It is only the enemies of Israel, the ignorant and the people who are allergic to truth, who stubbornly refuse to accept that the land the Israelis are living on was given by God to Abraham and his descendants long before the existence of Christianity and Islam. Meshoe said the EFF was ignorant of the fact that South Africa needs Israel much more than Israel needs South Africa. 

“The EFF and the ANC must stop being hypocrites and accept that South Africa has many needs — and Israel has the expertise to meet them in areas such as healthcare, innovation, technology, agriculture and economic growth.

“Without Israel, we risk diplomatic tensions that can hinder communication channels for addressing regional issues and ending business collaborations that would reduce economic opportunities, trade, investments and job creation.”


Would you like to comment on this article?
Register (it's quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.