ANC, EFF majority votes to close Israeli embassy

Parliament has voted to close the Israeli embassy. File Picture: Nardus Engelbrecht / Independent Newspapers (Archives)

Parliament has voted to close the Israeli embassy. File Picture: Nardus Engelbrecht / Independent Newspapers (Archives)

Published Nov 21, 2023


African National Congress (ANC) chief whip Pemmy Majodina and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema say the conduct of Israel has pushed South Africa to cut ties with it until there was a ceasefire in the Middle East.

This was after the majority of 248 MPs voted in support of the motion to cut ties with Israel until it had agreed to a ceasefire. A total of 91 MPs voted against the motion.

Majodina tabled an amendment to the motion that was initially tabled by Malema in which the ANC wants Israel to also agree to UN-facilitated peace talks.

The ANC said the Israeli embassy must be closed “until a ceasefire is agreed to by Israel and Israel commits to binding UN-facilitated negotiations whose outcome must be a just, sustainable, and lasting peace.”

Malema said he welcomed the ANC’s support of the motion to close the Israeli embassy until there was an end to the conflict.

Parliament was on Tuesday voting on a motion to close the Israeli embassy following the escalation of the conflict in Gaza.

However, the day before, the Foreign Ministry in Israel announced that it was recalling its ambassador, Eliav Belotserkovsky, for consultations.

Malema said they welcome the ANC’s support of the motion.

“We support the amendment. We want to applaud the ANC for its maturity on this matter. It doesn’t matter politically; we disagree, but when it comes to the issue of humanity, we must protect the human rights of all human beings all over the world,” said Malema.

Majodina said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must be held accountable for war crimes in Gaza.

She said the war in Gaza has caused untold suffering for thousands of people. She said women and children have been at the receiving end of this conflict.

“Our government has withdrawn its diplomats for consultations. When we talk about numbers, we are talking about people being killed while others are still under rubble. The Israeli embassy should remain closed,” said Majodina.

But the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), the Democratic Alliance (DA), the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), and Freedom Front Plus said they were against the motion.

IFP chief whip Narend Singh warned that the ANC government must not play itself out of the game of finding peace in the Middle East.

South Africa should be part of any peace process instead of doing the opposite.

“We feel that we should not play ourselves out of this game as South Africa. As we speak, the honourable president of our country (Cyril Ramaphosa) is leading a BRICS delegation talking about finding a peaceful solution. I believe that we should not play ourselves out of the game by not being involved in a peace process through the diplomats that we have in that country,“ said Singh.

DA MP Emma Powell also warned that, with its position on the conflict, the ANC government was not an honest broker.

She said that by taking this stance, it would be difficult for government to be involved in any peace process in the Middle East.

“’This motion runs counter-intuitive to the ANC’s stated aims of having a genuine stake in playing a meaningful role in negotiating a peaceful resolution. The ANC is scoring an own goal here by having made these proposed amendments. It’s a firm no from us,” said Powell of their objection to the motion.

Ahmed Munzoor Shaik Emam of the National Freedom Party (NFP) said they support the motion as this would put pressure on Israel to stop its war in Palestine.