The African National Congress’ subcommittee on International Relations (IR), on Thursday, unanimously resolved to direct the government to downgrade the SA Embassy in Israel to a liaison office.
The ruling party adopted this position at its national conference with the aim of expressing its support with the people of Palestine. Speaking to reporters, newly elected secretary general Ace Magashule confirmed the report.
“In order to give our practical expression of support to the oppressed people of Palestine, the ANC has unanimously resolved to direct the SA government to immediately and unconditionally downgrade the South African Embassy in Israel to a liaison office,” he said.
This decision was also supported by delegates from the North West, together with branches and regions from other provinces. According to ANC North West spokesperson Gerald Modise, the move is a clear message to Isreal that there is a price to pay for its human rights abuses and violations of international law.
The ruling party’s decision is in opposition to a recent announcement by US President Donald Trump who instructed his administration to begin a process of recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Isreali’s capital came despite warnings from around the world that the gesture further drives a wedge between Israel and the Palestinians.
In his speech, the U.S president had said:
“I have determined that it is time to officially recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” Trump said. “While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver. Today, I am delivering.”
The status of Jerusalem – home to sites holy to the Muslim, Jewish and Christian religions – has been one of the thorniest issues in long-running Middle East peace efforts.
Meanwhile, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies and the Zionist Federation have slammed the ANC for planning to degrade the country’s embassy in Israel to a liaison office, saying the move will do nothing for the people of Palestine but will have a detrimental effect on South Africans.
The SAJBD and SAZF said in a statement:
“We question the motives behind this discriminatory decision that would effectively prevent South Africa from playing any mediatory role in bringing about peace or dialogue between Israel and Palestine.
“Those who are calling for the downgrade, as was clearly evident at the ANC International Relations Commission, including the usual suspects of Bongani Masuku and Mohamed Desai, are consistent in their desire to demonise Israel while real human rights abuses like those occurring in Libya, Myanmar and Syria, among others, are ignored.
“This downgrade will do nothing for the Palestinian people‚ and have a detrimental effect on South Africans. We further question the motives of organisations and individuals who have managed to ‘capture’ the ANC’s international relations agenda‚ including the BDS.”
The SAJBD and SAZF, in addition, maintained that the ANC’s stance on the issue will have implications for South African tourism and trade‚ as well as diminish the country’s status as a meaningful peace broker.