Zuma to dispatch team to Israel

By admin
22 July 2014

Nearly 600 people have been killed in Gaza strip. President Zuma has called on Israel to withdraw troops and has condemned Hama's firing of rockets.

President Jacob Zuma is to send a special team to Israel and Palestine as fighting in the Gaza strip intensifies, International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said on Tuesday.

"The restoration of lasting peace in the Middle East is in our interest," Nkoana-Mashabane said while delivering her budget vote speech in Parliament.

"In this respect, President Zuma will be dispatching a team, led by our former deputy minister Aziz Pahad, to Israel and Palestine to convey our growing concern with the escalation of violence there, including the endless wanton killing of Palestinian civilians and the destruction of homes in Gaza."

Zuma would invite Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas on a working visit to South Africa.

South Africa would also pledge US1 million in humanitarian aid to Palestine, through United Nations agencies.

Most MPs participating in the debate called on government to play a more active role in trying to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas militants.

"Israel and Palestinian leaders must return to negotiations, all hostilities must be brought to an end, and all strategies employed that result in the death of civilians must cease immediately," DA MP Stevens Mokgalapa said.

The Democratic Alliance agreed with South Africa's support for a two-state solution, he said.

The Economic Freedom Fighters, in turn, called on government to sever all ties with the Israeli government.

"The EFF is calling for an immediate expulsion of the Israeli ambassador and not to leave for hours, but recall without return," said EFF MP Magdalene Moonsamy.

"We demand the end of Israel's illegal occupation and further instruct the South African government to end all business with companies that continue to perpetuate terrorism in Palestine."

Inkatha Freedom Party MP Mangaqa Mncwango said negotiations and diplomacy were the only way to halt hostilities.

"It's also critically important that South Africa not only be seen to be pragmatic and neutral in its approach to this situation, but must also take active steps to promote peace," Mncwango said.

"Our government's current approach through the ANC's political antics lends itself to be perceived to be taking sides in this conflict."

The IFP MP cautioned that taking sides could do irreparable damage to South Africa's international standing.

United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa asked that Parliament's international relations portfolio committee be given greater powers, instead of merely being an oversight body.

The powers should include assessing and evaluating executive decisions related to foreign policy.

"Such an approach would allow us to present a united front in conflicts such as in the Middle East," said Holomisa.

"In this regard, a radical intervention from South Africa must seek to champion the implementation of the UN Security Council resolutions on the Middle East."

The debate came two days after Zuma called on both the Israeli defence force and Hamas militia to stop hostilities.

Zuma called on Israel to withdraw troops from the Gaza strip, while at the same time condemning Hamas's firing of rockets into Israel.

Tuesday marked the 15th day of the deadliest violence in the enclave in five years.

News agency Agence France-Presse reported that close to 600 people had been killed so far.

- SAPA

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