On Tuesday, November 21st, South Africa’s Parliament took a decisive step by voting in favor of a motion to close Israel’s embassy in Pretoria and suspend all diplomatic relations. This move, a response to the escalating conflict in Gaza, passed with 248 votes for and 91 against, reflecting South Africa’s strong stance on the issue.
The motion, introduced by the left-wing opposition party Economic Freedom Fighters and backed by the ruling African National Congress, was opposed by members of the centrist, white-majority, largely pro-Israel Democratic Alliance. This parliamentary decision, while largely symbolic, sends a clear message of South Africa’s disapproval of Israel’s military actions in Gaza.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has been vocal in his criticism of Israel, labeling its actions in Gaza as war crimes and genocide. The Palestinian authorities have reported over 14,100 deaths in Gaza due to Israel’s air and ground assault since October 7, following an attack by Hamas that killed about 1,200 people in Israel.
The vote came shortly after Israel announced the recall of Ambassador Eli Belotserkovsky from Pretoria for consultations. South Africa, which has long supported the Palestinian cause for statehood, has not had an ambassador in Israel since 2018. The parallels drawn by many Palestinian rights groups between the Israeli occupation and South Africa’s apartheid regime have further fueled this stance.
In addition to the parliamentary vote, South Africa hosted a virtual summit of BRICS nations on the same day. The group, consisting of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, called for an “immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities” in Gaza. President Ramaphosa, in a social media post, emphasized the need for combined efforts to end the historical injustice in Gaza and work towards a peaceful and secure future for both Palestine and Israel.
This move by South Africa’s Parliament marks a significant moment in international relations, as the country aligns its diplomatic actions with its long-standing support for the Palestinian cause and its condemnation of Israel’s policies in Gaza.