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Tuesday, 21 November 2023 07:40

Israel recalls its SA ambassador ahead of parliamentary vote to shut embassy in Pretoria.

By Lehlohonolo Lehana.

Photo Credit: Twitter.

Israel recalled Ambassador to South Africa Eli Belotserkovsky for consultations, due to "recent comments" from South Africa, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs said on Monday.

"Following the latest South African statements, the ambassador of Israel to Pretoria has been recalled to Jerusalem for consultations, "said the ministry of Foreign Affairs.

South Africa, which is highly critical of Israel's campaign in Gaza against Hamas, has recalled its diplomats from Israel. Hamas militants rampaged through southern Israel on Oct. 7, sparking the devastating war in Gaza.

Pretoria recently announced that it was recalling all of its diplomats from its embassy in Tel Aviv and it issued a démarche — a very stern form of diplomatic rebuke — to Belotserkovsky. It has also referred Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the International Criminal Court.

Israel's decision on Monday to recall Belotserkovsky came a day before Parliament was expected to vote on an EFF motion calling upon "the government to close the Israeli Embassy in South Africa and suspend all diplomatic relations with Israel". 

The ANC supported the motion in principle, the ruling party and the government were unlikely to support it because of the practical implications — including the fact that breaking diplomatic relations with Israel would mean that South Africa would no longer be able to maintain its embassy to Palestine in Jerusalem.

It seemed likely that the ANC would settle for a compromise of expelling Belotserkovsky but not cutting relations with Israel. Now it seems Israel has pre-empted that move by recalling the ambassador.

Meanwhile, the crisis in the Middle East could present the BRICS bloc with an important test of unity as its leaders gather on Tuesday for a virtual summit hosted by BRICS chairperson President Cyril Ramaphosa to discuss the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. 

He will be joined by most of the leaders of the other BRICS member states, Brazil, Russia, India and China, as well as the six countries that were admitted to BRICS at its summit in Johannesburg in August: Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran and the United Arab Emirates. 

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres will also participate in the virtual meeting, at the end of which leaders are expected to adopt a joint statement on the situation in the Middle East with particular reference to Gaza, the South African Presidency announced.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to participate, but Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will not, South African officials have confirmed, and will instead be represented by Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar. 

India is the only BRICS member which abstained from the UN General Assembly resolution on 26 October calling for "an immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities" between Israel and Hamas and for unhindered humanitarian access to Gaza.