Statement by Mr Ebrahim I. Ebrahim, Deputy Minister of International Relations and Co-operation of the Republic of South Africa, at the Al Quds International Forum, Rabat, Morocco, 28 October 2009
Your Excellencies and distinguished guests,
It is an honour for me to address this Forum, which is under the high patronage of His Majesty King Mohamed VI of the Kingdom of Morocco.
For many years since the creation of the State of Israel, a lot of disturbing developments have taken place in and around Jerusalem some of which have managed to escape the public eye. These have now culminated into a situation that threatens the very existence of the future Palestinian State as envisioned in the two-state solution.
Throughout history, Jerusalem has thrived as an important political and cultural centre as well as a religious focal point for the three monotheistic religions. Jerusalem today lies divided between the Arab East and Israeli West. This division is beset on all sides by an Israeli agenda that militates against peace in the region; an agenda that blatantly disregards international law on the question of Jerusalem.
Today it is a well known fact that Israeli presence extends beyond the western part of Jerusalem and deeper into the Arab eastern part. The world has seen how Israel through a variety of questionable measures continues to usurp land that belongs to Palestinians. South Africa has taken note of the recent troubling developments in and around the Arab Jerusalem neighbourhoods. The process of forced evictions, land grabbing and property expropriations remind one of a tragic chapter in the form of South Africa’s apartheid history. A chapter whose masterminds thought policies of expulsion, denigration and land dispossession would deprive the victims of these policies strength to stand against such injustice. However, history proved otherwise!
The continuing Israeli expansion into Arab neighbourhoods should compel all of us to seriously review our understanding of Israel’s genuine commitment to negotiations and peace. The settler presence in various Palestinian neighbourhoods, the ceaseless expansion and expropriation of Palestinian lands is an impediment to peace. Such regrettable incidents have, among other things, afforded Israel a free-hand to create “facts on the ground” and possibly even making it more difficult to realise the two-state vision.
South Africa’s position on the question of Jerusalem is unambiguous; the latter remains part of the agenda of the struggle for self-determination of the people of Palestine and the establishment of the Palestinian State based on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
We have an obligation as the international community to prevent a catastrophe before it explodes in our faces. It is therefore my hope that this conference will be a springboard to have Jerusalem as an agenda point at various multilateral fora. It is also my sincerest wish that the deliberations of this conference will go beyond words and statements, and that they will sharpen our resolve and commitment to assisting both Israel and Palestine in finding their way back to the negotiating table; therefore, among other things, Israel must halt all settlement activities.
In conclusion, I wish to commend the Palestinian leadership for its commitment in complying with its obligations in terms of the Road Map even in the face of overwhelming challenges. I would also like to convey a message to my Palestinian brethren that, Jerusalem is a significant part of a greater struggle; a struggle whose victory depends primarily on unity and cohesion among all Palestinian forces.
For more information contact Nomfanelo Kota on 082 4593787.
Issued by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation.
Private Bag X152
28 October 2009.