South Africa’s parliament on Tuesday called on its government to downgrade Israel’s embassy in the country to a liaison office, citing the Jewish state’s treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank.
The non-binding resolution was approved by a vote of 208-94, and can only go into effect if the government adopts it and informs Israel. It has so far yet to respond to the vote.
South Africa has taken a hardline stance against Israel and staunchly supports the Palestinians. In 2019 it downgraded its embassy in Tel Aviv and pulled out its ambassador.
The ruling African National Congress (ANC) party has long adopted a very hostile stance toward Israel, endorsing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement in 2012.
The vote coincides with rising tensions in the region, with the IDF conducting near-nightly raids in the West Bank amid a series of deadly Palestinian terror attacks. Those tensions have ramped up even further in recent weeks amid a cycle of Israeli raids and Palestinian revenge attacks, as well as an uptick in settler violence.
Tuesday’s motion was proposed by Ahmed Munzoor Shaik Emam, leader of the National Freedom Party, and was supported by the ANC.
National Freedom Party (NFP) Parliamentarian and Whip of NFP Caucus Honourable Ahmed Munzoor Shaik Emam
SOUTH AFRICAN PARLIAMENT PASSES HISTORIC RESOLUTION TO DOWNGRADE EMBASSY IN ISRAEL
— National Freedom Party – NFP (@NFP_Updates) March 7, 2023
“Today we took a step closer to the attainment of that freedom for Palestinians,” Shaik Emam said in a statement.
“This is a moment Madiba [Nelson Mandela] would be proud of. He always said our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of Palestinians. Today, we took a step closer to the attainment of that freedom for Palestinians,” he added.
Africa’s Christian Democratic Party, which voted against the move, said in a statement that it was “appalled” by it.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry also slammed the vote as “shameful and disgraceful.”
“Even as a symbolic resolution, it does not contribute in the least to the promotion of any viable solution in the Middle East,” it said in a statement.
“At a time when many African and Muslim countries are strengthening and deepening ties with the State of Israel for the benefit of everyone’s common interests, it is unfortunate that South Africa continues to adhere to anachronism and the deterioration of relations, a move that will only harm South Africa itself and its standing,” the ministry said.
South African Jewish Board of Deputies chair Professor Karen Milner said the resolution was a “gratuitous slap in the face” to Israel’s supporters, “driven by an obsessive enmity towards the world’s sole Jewish nation-state and a desire to undermine and harm South Africa’s own best interests.”
“For the Jewish community in particular, it was deeply disquieting to witness the overtly hostile, undiplomatic, and above all blatantly discriminatory treatment to which Israel was subjected in this country’s foremost law-making chamber,” she said.
AFP and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.