Legislators in South Africa decided on Tuesday to close the Israeli embassy in Pretoria and halt diplomatic ties until a ceasefire in Israel’s conflict with Hamas, an Islamist Palestinian organization, is reached in Gaza.
The resolution is symbolic primarily since President Cyril Ramaphosa’s administration will decide whether to implement it. A spokesman for the president did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters.
However, Ramaphosa and high-ranking officials from the foreign ministry have openly criticized Israel’s leadership throughout its catastrophic military assault against Hamas in the densely populated Gaza Strip, and they have demanded that the International Criminal Court look into any war crimes committed by them.
The Israeli embassy did not immediately answer a request for a response.
The Israeli ambassador in Pretoria was called back to Tel Aviv on Monday in anticipation of the vote, decisively adopted on Tuesday by a vote of 248 to 91.
The opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party introduced the parliamentary resolution last week after the ruling African National Congress (ANC) promised to back the fundamental diplomatic position of South Africa ever since Nelson Mandela was elected as the nation’s first democratic president in 1994.
The EFF draft resolution calling for the closure of the embassy and diplomatic suspension was amended by the chief whip of the African National Congress (ANC), Pemmy Majodina, to add the following sentence: “… until Israel and Israel agree to a ceasefire, commit to binding United Nations-facilitated negotiations whose outcome must be a just, sustainable, and lasting peace.”
For decades, South Africa has supported Palestinian statehood in Israeli-occupied territory, drawing comparisons between the suffering of Palestinians and the black majority during the oppressive apartheid era—a claim Israel strenuously disputes.
The EFF introduced the motion on Thursday in support of the Palestinian people in response to the Israeli invasion and shelling of Gaza, which Hamas controls. On October 7, the terrorist group carried out a deadly raid into Israel, which sparked the invasion.