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South Africa lawmakers vote to suspend diplomatic ties with Israel, shut embassy

The South African National Assembly has voted in favour of a motion calling for the suspension of diplomatic relations with Israel and the closure of the Israeli embassy in Pretoria, following the Israeli war on Gaza. The motion calling for suspending all diplomatic relations until a just ceasefire under United Nations supervision is reached passed on Tuesday with 248 votes in favour and 91 votes against. The resolution is to be passed by the speaker of the house to the president, and President Cyril Ramaphosa will be making the final decision.

November 21, 2023 at 6:28 pm

South African lawmakers voted, on Tuesday, in favour of closing down the Israeli embassy in Pretoria and suspending all diplomatic relations until a ceasefire is agreed in its war with Palestine in Gaza, Reuters reports.

The resolution is largely symbolic as it will be up to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government whether to implement it; a presidency spokesperson did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

But Ramaphosa and senior Foreign Ministry officials have been vocally critical of Israel’s leadership during its devastating military campaign against Hamas in the densely populated Gaza Strip, calling on the International Criminal Court to investigate them for potential war crimes.

The Israeli embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

READ: Israel strike kills two reporters, third person in Lebanon – media, PM

On Monday, the Israeli ambassador in Pretoria was recalled to Tel Aviv for consultations ahead of the vote, which on Tuesday was resoundingly adopted by a 248-91 margin.

The parliamentary resolution was brought by the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party last week, when the governing ANC pledged to support what has been a central diplomatic stance for South Africa since Nelson Mandela became the country’s first democratically elected President in 1994.

The Chief Whip of the ANC, Pemmy Majodina, amended the last point of the EFF draft resolution calling for the embassy’s closure and diplomatic suspension, to include the words:

… until a ceasefire is agreed to by Israel and Israel commits to binding United Nations-facilitated negotiations whose outcome must be a just, sustainable and lasting peace

South Africa has backed the Palestinian cause for statehood in Israeli-occupied territories for decades, likening the plight of Palestinians to those of the Black majority during the repressive apartheid-era, a comparison Israel vehemently denies.

The EFF proposed the motion on Thursday in solidarity with the Palestinian people over the Israeli bombardment and invasion of Gaza, prompted by a deadly incursion by Hamas into Israel on 7 October.

READ: Israel-Palestine war: Israel’s claim of ‘self-defence’ has zero legal legitimacy