After a little embarrassing spat with South Africa, it now appears that the diplomatic row between Israel and South Africa has turned uglier.
South Africa slams Israel
Last month, an Israeli diplomat was removed from the African union’s annual summit due to a dispute over Israel’s accreditation to the bloc. The situation escalated, and a video was posted on social media showing security personnel escorting Ambassador Sharon Bar-Li out of the auditorium during the summit’s opening ceremony in Addis Ababa, causing significant embarrassment for Israel.
This incident caused a major diplomatic row between Israel and the African Union, as Israel condemned and accused Algeria and South Africa, two key nations in the 55-country bloc, of orchestrating the expulsion of the senior Israeli diplomat, even going as far as calling them “extremist countries”.
While Israel fumed over the AU’s actions, the latter remained firm on its stance and justified its action against the Israeli diplomat. However, the diplomatic row had barely settled when South Africa once again worsened the situation with Israel.
As per a report, the South African parliament has decided to downgrade Israel’s embassy in Pretoria to a liaison office, a move that Israel has denounced as “disgraceful”. Despite Israel’s opposition, the measure received widespread support in the South African legislature, with 208 lawmakers backing it and only 94 opposing it.
In response to the measure, the Israeli foreign ministry responded to it by saying that “It does not contribute in the least to the promotion of any viable solution in the Middle East,”.
As per the report, the measure was introduced by South Africa’s National Freedom Party to protest what it considers Israel’s discriminatory practices against Palestinians. The left-wing National Freedom Party in South Africa went further and even questioned the existence of Israel, stating in a statement that “Israel was built through the displacement, murder and maiming of Palestinians. And to maintain their grip on power, they have instituted apartheid to control and manage Palestinians.”
The South African Zionist Federation has also denounced the move, stating in a statement that the “ANC government has created a foreign policy that aims to befriend dictatorships and bash democracies.”
The South African government has become a vocal critic of Israel, and this move is likely to exacerbate the ongoing diplomatic row with Israel. It still remains a mystery what South Africa aims to achieve by making such provocative statements against Israel, and only time will tell if this will impede Israel’s outreach campaign in Africa.