Israel on Wednesday slammed as “disgraceful” the South African parliament’s decision to downgrade Jerusalem’s embassy in Pretoria to a liaison office.
The measure in the South African legislature was backed by 208 lawmakers, with 94 opposing.
“The symbolic resolution taken yesterday by the South African parliament calling for the downgrading of relations between South Africa and Israel is shameful and disgraceful,” the Israeli Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
“It does not contribute in the least to the promotion of any viable solution in the Middle East,” the statement continued.
The measure was introduced by South Africa’s National Freedom Party, which has two members in parliament, to protest what it considers to be Israel’s discriminatory practices against the Palestinians.
The initiative was reportedly pushed through with help from the ruling African National Congress Party.
“This is a moment [former South African leader Nelson Mandela] would be proud of. He always said our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of Palestinians,” the left-wing National Freedom Party said in a statement Tuesday.
“The state of 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. As South Africans, we refuse to stand by while apartheid is being perpetrated again,” it added.
The South African Zionist Federation denounced the move, saying in a statement that the “ANC government has created a foreign policy that aims to befriend dictatorships and bash democracies.
“It obsesses over Israel, which is the size of our Kruger National Park, and at the same hosts navy war drills with Russia, responsible for horrific war crimes and the deaths of thousands of innocent Ukrainian civilians over the past year,” added the organization.
Last month, the Israeli Foreign Ministry partially blamed Pretoria for the ejection of an Israeli delegation from the African Union’s annual summit in Ethiopia.
“Israel looks harshly upon the incident in which the [Foreign Ministry] 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 ministry said in a statement.
“It is sad to see that the African Union has been taken hostage by a few extremist countries such as Algeria and South Africa, driven by hatred and controlled by Iran. We call on the African countries to stand against these actions that harm the organization of the African Union itself and the entire continent,” added the statement.
The Foreign Ministry said that the charge d’affaires at South Africa’s embassy in Israel would be summoned for a reprimand.
The South African government has become a vocal critic of Israel, often accusing the Jewish state of practicing “apartheid.”
Pretoria downgraded its embassy in Tel Aviv in 2019 and pulled out its ambassador. President Isaac Herzog last month slammed as a “blood libel” comparison of Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians to South African apartheid.
“It is a dangerous and intensifying terrorism, since the legitimacy of the State of Israel and the justification of its existence is directly related to its ability to protect itself and hence they are trying to undermine this ability,” he said.
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