Media Statement

27 January 2022

South Africa has maintained a consistent position on the Israel – Palestine question

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation has noted comments and questions regarding the status of diplomatic relations between South Africa and Israel. The debate appears to have been triggered by the acceptance of a letter of Credence of the new Israeli Ambassador to South Africa.

South Africa currently does not have an Ambassador in Israel. South Africa took a decision to recall our Ambassador in 2018 as part of processes to downgrade our diplomatic presence in Israel.

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. South Africa has been consistent and unwavering in its principled support for the struggle of the Palestinian people in their struggles against 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. This parallel is symbolised by what Madiba said in 1997: "We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians."

We have taken our support for Palestine to multilateral platforms, acting as a catalyst and amplifier of Palestinian positions on the international stage. We have initiated and supported countless draft resolutions in favour of Palestine; has gone to every open United Nations Security Council meeting addressing the Palestinian question; held consistent voting behaviour since 1994; backed the Palestinian UN bid for statehood and more generally the 2009 "Palestine 194" diplomatic campaign; defended Palestinians in all peace conferences; and used our influence to counter recent Israeli diplomatic offensives that could have proved harmful to Palestinian ties to other African countries.

Over the last 2 years, South Africa has been instrumental in stepping up pressure on the Government of Israel. In partnership with the Government of Namibia, Palestinian Human Rights Organisations, Israeli Human Rights Organisations and international legal scholars, South Africa has moved to catalyse 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 has been akin to apartheid. At the next session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Michael Link, the Special Rapporteur of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) will be releasing his report on the Crime of Apartheid in the OPT. His findings, together with possible legal opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the same matter may lead to South Africa and indeed all other countries, based on respect for international law, to review its diplomatic stance in relation to the Government of Israel.

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.

Enquiries: Mr Clayson Monyela, Spokesperson for DIRCO, 082 884 5974

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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460 Soutpansberg Road
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