Appearing unyielding to fresh calls for the closing down of the Israeli embassy in South Africa, Cabinet yesterday said no decision has been taken on Israel’s diplomatic presence in SA.
This, despite frosty relations between the two countries over the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict, which has left thousands of casualties on both sides.
Last week, Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema proposed a parliamentary motion for “the closure of the Israel embassy in South Africa and suspension of all diplomatic relations with Israel” – debated in the National Assembly.
With Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Candith Mashego-Dlamini, having maintained South Africa would need to take into consideration implications of such a drastic action on South Africa’s diplomatic presence in the Middle East, government has adopted a cautious stance.
Addressing a post Cabinet media briefing in Pretoria, Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, said there was “no decision taken by Cabinet to close down the embassy of Israel”.
SA diplomats, she said, were recalled for consultation “and that will determine the period of their stay”.
“We will inform you when they go back to Israel,” she said.
Ntshavheni said the department of international relations and cooperation has already engaged with Israeli ambassador to South Africa Eliav Belotsercovsky “when he was demarched”.
Referring to geopolitical matters, Ntshavheni said Cabinet reiterated a stance adopted during the African-Saudi Summit in Riyadh, hosted by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, calling for an end to the war in Gaza.
Ntshavheni said: “The summit condemned the targeting of civilians and the violations of international law by the Israeli government.
“Cabinet continues to be concerned by the atrocities of the Israeli government against the people of Palestine, including the deliberate attacks on the United Nations school in Gaza and the massacre of hundreds of children.
“It is because of these continued atrocities that are being committed with impunity by the Israeli government – with the support and protection of powerful countries that on 17 November, South Africa, together with the Comoros, Djibouti, Bolivia and Bangladesh – jointly referred the situation in Palestine and Israel to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
“While the Palestinian Authority did ask the ICC to investigate crimes under the court’s jurisdiction in 2018, South Africa believes the current atrocities, particularly in Gaza, need renewed attention with the full backing of state parties.”
“Our ambassador in The Hague delivered the referral in person, which asked the ICC to investigate the commission of war crimes against humanity and genocide, with a view to holding those most responsible accountable.”
“Given that much of the global community is witnessing the commission of these crimes in real time, including statements of genocidal intent by many Israeli leaders, we expect that warrants of arrests for these leaders, will be issued shortly.”