South Africa’s Parliament has recently voted in favor of a motion that calls for the closure of Israel’s embassy in Pretoria and the suspension of diplomatic ties between the two nations. This decision comes amid escalating tensions following the Israeli assault on Gaza. The motion, primarily symbolic in nature, awaits a decision from President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government on whether to implement it.
Introduced by the left-wing opposition party Economic Freedom Fighters and supported by the ruling African National Congress, the motion secured 248 votes in favor and faced 91 votes against. Notably, members of the centrist, predominantly pro-Israel Democratic Alliance opposed the motion.
President Ramaphosa has expressed his country’s belief that Israel is committing war crimes and genocide in the besieged Gaza Strip. Palestinian authorities report over 14,100 casualties in Israel’s air and ground assault since October 7. The conflict was triggered by a surprise attack from the Palestinian armed group Hamas on southern Israel, resulting in approximately 1,200 deaths, according to Israeli authorities.
The vote took place following Israel’s announcement of the recall of Ambassador Eli Belotserkovsky from Pretoria “for consultations.” South Africa, which has not had an ambassador in Israel since 2018, has a longstanding history of supporting the Palestinian cause for statehood.
Parallel to the vote, South Africa hosted a virtual summit of BRICS nations, consisting of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. The summit called for an “immediate, durable, and sustained humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities” in Gaza. The international community, including South Africa, has increasingly drawn parallels between the Israeli occupation and South Africa’s historical apartheid regime.
In recent years, numerous international rights groups have accused Israel of policies towards the Palestinians that constitute the crime of apartheid, a claim vehemently denied by Israel. President Ramaphosa, in a social media post on Tuesday, emphasized the need for collective efforts to end the historical injustice in the region and work towards a just, peaceful, and secure future for both Palestine and Israel.
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