SA maintains diplomatic ties with Israel, while still supporting Palestinians - Dirco

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President Cyril Ramaphosa receiving letters of Credence from from the Ambassador of the State of Israel. (Twitter, @PresidencyZA)
President Cyril Ramaphosa receiving letters of Credence from from the Ambassador of the State of Israel. (Twitter, @PresidencyZA)
  • The Department of International Relations and Cooperation says that South Africa and Israel have maintained formal diplomatic ties, despite the government's support for Palestinians.
  • This week, President Cyril Ramaphosa received letters of credence from Israel's ambassador.
  • People have since called for the government to apologise to Miss SA, Lalela Mswane. 

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) says that despite the country's support for Palestinians, post-apartheid South Africa and Israel have maintained formal diplomatic ties to date.

Dirco was responding to comments and questions regarding the status of diplomatic relations between South Africa and Israel. 

The debate stems from the acceptance of the "letters of credence" from the new Israeli ambassador to South Africa. This week, the Presidency held a credentials ceremony in Pretoria where President Cyril Ramaphosa received the letters from ambassador Eliav Belotsercovsky. 

On Thursday, the department said South Africa currently did not have an ambassador in Israel.

"South Africa took a decision to recall our ambassador in 2018 as part of processes to downgrade our diplomatic presence in Israel.

"Post-apartheid South Africa and Israel have maintained formal diplomatic ties to date. In part, a diplomatic presence has allowed South Africa to play a role with its international partners in the ongoing efforts to end the occupation of Palestine," Dirco said in a statement.

The department added that South Africa had been consistent and unwavering in its principled support for the struggle of the Palestinian people against occupation. 

READ | Govt withdraws support for Miss SA ahead of Miss Universe pageant in Israel

"Our country draws a direct parallel between the former apartheid regime and the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. Like the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), we consider Palestine, together with Western Sahara, as unfinished decolonisation struggles."

The credentials ceremony caused a stir on social media, with people calling for the government to apologise to Miss SA, Lalela Mswane. 

The government withdrew its support of Mswane’s participation in the Miss Universe pageant held in Israel last month. 

The Department of Sports, Art and Culture's withdrawal said that atrocities committed by Israel against Palestinians were well documented and that the government "could not in good conscience associate itself with such".

Some of the responses on social media were very critical of the government's decision.

"... Meanwhile, former CJ must ask for apology and miss universe was bared [sic] from attending contest in Israel... Now you receiving whatever from Israel ... You are confusing the nation on your stand about Israel."

"The very same government who told Lalela not to go to Israel? Look at him, beaming with smile, welcoming Israeli diplomats. Some of us did say they were just grandstanding, as always," another tweet read.

EFF deputy president Floyd Shivambu said: "This is a reflection of ANC’s and puppet government hypocrisy and lies. They pretend to be against the racist and apartheid state of Israel, acted like they’re boycotting them, yet welcome representatives of the murderous and colonial racist and apartheid Israel to SA. Disgusting."

Dirco said that, over the past two years, South Africa had been instrumental in stepping up pressure on the Israeli government.

"In partnership with the government of Namibia, Palestinian human rights organisations, Israeli human rights organisations and international legal scholars, to catalyse discussions on whether the actions of the Israeli government contravenes international legal prohibitions on the Crime of Apartheid," it said in the statement.

It added that the situation was dynamic and that South Africa would ensure that its diplomatic presence was strategic and geared towards ending the occupation. 

"South Africa will continue to support concrete and genuine efforts towards achieving this just and lasting solution, which we believe will greatly contribute to peace, justice and stability in that region."

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