South African lawmakers vote to suspend diplomatic ties with Israel, close embassy

Supporters of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) and various political parties, including civil society groups, gather in solidarity with the Palestinian people in front of the Israeli embassy in Pretoria, South Africa, on October 20, 2023. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo Acquire License Rights

CAPE TOWN, Nov 21 (Reuters) – South African MPs voted on Tuesday to close the Israeli embassy in Pretoria and suspend all diplomatic relations until a ceasefire. be concluded as part of the war against the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas in Gaza.

The resolution is largely symbolic as it will be up to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government to implement it; a presidency spokesperson said Ramaphosa “notes and appreciates” Parliament’s guidance on South Africa’s diplomatic relations with Israel, particularly on the status of the embassy.

“The president and the cabinet are committed to this subject, which remains the responsibility of the national executive,” said Vincent Magwenya.

Ramaphosa and senior Foreign Ministry officials sharply criticized Israeli leaders during their devastating military campaign against Hamas in the densely populated Gaza Strip, calling on the International Criminal Court to investigate possible war crimes.

The Israeli embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On Monday, the Israeli ambassador in Pretoria was recalled to Tel Aviv for consultations before the vote, which passed on Tuesday by a margin of 248 votes to 91.

The parliamentary resolution was introduced last week by the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party, as the ruling African National Congress pledged support for what has been a central diplomatic position for South Africa since Nelson Mandela became the country’s first democratically elected president in 1994.

ANC leader Pemmy Majodina amended the final point of the EFF’s draft resolution calling for embassy closure and diplomatic suspension to include the words: “…until that a ceasefire is accepted by Israel and that Israel commits to negotiations facilitated by the United Nations the result of which must be a just, lasting and lasting peace.”

South Africa has for decades supported the Palestinian cause for statehood in the territories occupied by Israel, comparing the plight of the Palestinians to that of the black majority during the repressive period of apartheid, a comparison that Israel vehemently denies it.

The EFF proposed the motion on Thursday in solidarity with the Palestinian people facing the Israeli bombing and Hamas-led invasion of Gaza, sparked by a deadly incursion by Hamas militants into Israel on October 7.

Reporting by Wendell Roelf; edited by Mark Heinrich and Jonathan Oatis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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