Ambassador Sharon Bar-Li, a senior Israeli diplomat, was escorted out of the African Union’s Summit, which was held in Ethiopia. It is alleged that the only Israeli delegate with permission to attend the summit was Israel’s Ambassador to the African Union Aleli Admasu, thus Bar-Li, who was representing Israel as an observer to the AU, was escorted out of the venue where the summit’s opening ceremony was taking place.
Bar-Li was accused by an AU official of not following protocol by appearing at a sitting she had not been invited to. “It is regrettable that the individual in question would abuse such a courtesy,” the official said.
This state of events left Israel unhappy, accusing South Africa and Algeria for engineering Ambassador Bar-Li’s removal from the AU summit. Israel labeled the two African countries as hateful and controlling the narrative of having Bar-Li expelled.
“Israel looks harshly upon the incident in which the deputy director for Africa, Ambassador Sharon Bar-Li, was removed from the African Union hall despite her status as an accredited observer with entrance badges,” the Israeli foreign ministry said.
However, South Africa staunchly refuted these accusations. South Africa said Israel’s presence had not been decided by the AU as a whole.
“Until the AU takes a decision on whether to grant Israel observer status, you cannot have the country sitting and observing,” Clayson Monyela, Head of Public Diplomacy in South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation.
“So, it’s not about South Africa or Algeria, it’s an issue of principle,” he said.
AU’s Pro-Palestine Stance
Israel had been granted observer status in July 2021 by the AU’s chairperson at that time, Moussa Faki Mahamat. He did so unilaterally, a decision that was bemoaned by several AU member states. The complaints were led by South Africa and Algeria, who claimed accepting Israel as an observer directly clashed with the AU’s pro-Palestine stance.
South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor had some words of her own regarding the removal of Ambassador Bar-Li.
“…I was very surprised to hear the reference, in very pejorative words to SA … I am not a security official at the AU nor do I work for the administration of the commission and so the notion that I stand up and remove any person in a hall is quite insulting and demeaning,” Pandor said. “I believe that the Israeli colleague is probably aware that we have objected to the commission chairperson’s unilateral decision to grant Israel observer status in our union.
“We have objected to this because we believe that the continued occupation of the land of Palestinian people, as well as the building of new settlements, the prohibition on movement and that Palestinian people have to carry ID documents to travel on different roads from other persons living in the area, that they cannot build their own homes and be assured that their land will not be occupied were infringements of the contents of the AU,” Pandor added.
“And so on the grounds of Israel not reflecting the values, principles and objectives of the AU…we have expressed the view that they cannot be an observer in our organization.