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22 Nov, 2023 09:14

South African lawmakers vote to cut ties with Israel

The motion received the backing of 248 MPs, while 91 voted against it
South African lawmakers vote to cut ties with Israel

In response to ongoing hostilities in Gaza, South African lawmakers have endorsed a motion to shut down the Israeli embassy and terminate diplomatic relations until Israel commits to a cease-fire.

The resolution, put forward by the opposition party Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), received a majority vote of 248 during a parliamentary session on Tuesday, with 91 MPs voting against it.

The parliament’s move is the latest measure taken by South Africa to put pressure on the Israeli government to end its military offensive in the troubled Palestinian enclave. Pretoria has repeatedly accused West Jerusalem of genocide in Gaza, where local officials say thousands have died, including children, since Israel launched its assault in response to the October 7 Hamas attack.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, during an emergency virtual BRICS+ summit on Tuesday, condemned Hamas for kidnapping Israeli civilians and added that the Palestinian militant group had violated international law when it invaded Israeli territory and killed around 1,200 people. However, he also insisted that Israel is committing war crimes and cited the Jewish state's occupation of Palestinian territory as the root cause of the conflict.

Diplomatic relations between the African nation and Israel have been strained in recent weeks as a result of the Gaza conflict. Pretoria has long supported the Palestinian struggle for independence, comparing it to South Africa's own fight against apartheid in the 20th century.

Earlier this week, South African Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni reported that Pretoria had requested the International Criminal Court (ICC) to issue an arrest warrant for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by mid-December. Ramaphosa had previously stated that his government had asked the court to investigate Israel for alleged war crimes.

Israel recalled its ambassador, Eli Belotserkovsky, from Pretoria for consultations after the ICC arrest comments. Pretoria had previously joined Bolivia, Belize, Bahrain, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Honduras, Jordan, and Türkiye in withdrawing its envoy and diplomatic employees from Tel Aviv.

While South Africa's ruling party, the African National Congress, had pledged to support the motion to sever diplomatic ties with Israel, its implementation is now in the hands of Ramaphosa's government.

The president and cabinet are engaged over the matter, which remains the responsibility of the national executive,” presidency spokesperson Vincent Magwenya said, according to Reuters.