South Africa calls for the arrest of Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu
Addressing the National Assembly on Tuesday 7th November, South Africa’s Minister for International Relations, Lady Naledi Pandor, said that Israel’s actions in Gaza were harsh reminders of those perpetrated under South Africa’s apartheid regime. She went on to suggest that the International Criminal Court should issue an arrest warrant for Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu and all his advisors.
‘Today I believe all of us in the world are expressing horror at the war crimes being committed in Palestine through the targeting of civilians, civilian infrastructure, UN premises and other vulnerable targets. These actions remind us of our experiences as black South Africans living under Apartheid. The collective punishment that Israel is exacting on all Palestinian people is an affront that has gone on for too long. The world has expressed horror at these affronts, but has not acted effectively to save Palestinian lives. Sadly, even here in our own country, there are many who choose to turn a blind eye to these atrocities.’
The volley of harsh criticism began days earlier, as on Monday, Naledi Pandor publicly announced to a press briefing, her government’s belief that Israel was responsible for collective punishment. She said:
'We are extremely concerned at the continued killing of children and innocent civilians in the Palestinian territories and we believe the nature of response by Israel has become one of collective punishment’
South Africa pulls its diplomatic mission from tel Aviv and threatens to expel Israeli Ambassador from South Africa
Later on the same day, the South African Minister in the Presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, announced that South Africa, had pulled its diplomatic mission from Tel Aviv in protest, describing the ongoing bombing campaign in Gaza as ‘genocide in the making’. He also indicated that South Africa was considering expelling Israel’s Ambassador to South Africa, Eli Belotserkovsky, in respect of what it described as his ‘disparaging’ remarks about the conflict. Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said:
‘Cabinet has decided to instruct [South Africa’s Foreign Ministry] to take necessary measures within the diplomatic channels and protocols to deal with the conduct of the ambassador of Israel to South Africa’
The South African Foreign Ministry has for some time been vocal about its reluctance to restore any kind of normalization of relations with Israel as a consequence of Israel’s
‘antagonistic attitude toward the [Middle East peace process] and disregard for international law regarding the rights of the Palestinians and their territories’
The South African Foreign Ministry went further this week by announcing that the Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip, amount to genocide.
International Relations Minister proposes peace plan to end the conflict in Gaza
Calling for an immediate cessation of the violence and the start of a UN mediated peace process in the region, during her statement at the National Assembly, the International Relations Minister, on Tuesday, outlined a multi-point peace plan for Gaza. These included:
· The implementation of an immediate ceasefire
· The opening of an humanitarian corridor
· The release of all civilian hostages
· The deployment of a UN rapid deployment force to be sent to Palestinian areas
· The establishment of Nuclear Weapons Free-zone in the Middle East
While calling for the ICC to take action, she criticized the lack of balance in its judgments historically in respect of its addressing of other conflicts in the world. She noted that the ICC was very quick to act when the territory of Ukraine was occupied by Russia, but has been conspicuously quiet over Israel’s breaches of international law in its assault on Gaza.
South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, echoed the sentiments of his Foreign Affairs Minister, when he said that the history of the Palestinians had echoes of apartheid and South Africa’s struggle against white-minority rule. He said:
‘They are people who have been under occupation for almost 75 years. They have been waiting and waging a war against a government that has been dubbed an apartheid state. We have always pledged our solidarity, and have always insisted that the only solution, especially with the issues of Palestine, is a two-state solution’
A week after the Hamas incursion into Southern Israel, Ramaphosa led a 60 party delegation of Palestinian supporters, wearing the black and white chequered Keffiyeh and waving Palestinian flags.