Speaking the Nations Mind

South Africa Backs Palestine, Downgrade Tel Aviv Embassy To Liaison Office


South Africa’s ruling ANC decided to downgrade its embassy in Tel Aviv to a liaison office over a U.S. decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, ahead of a U.N. vote on Thursday on a resolution urging Washington to drop the move. 

Newly elected president of the African National Congress (ANC) Cyril Ramaphosa arrives to speak at the end of the 54th National Conference of the ruling ANC at the Nasrec Expo Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa, December 20, 2017. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

The decision was taken at the end of a five-day African National Congress conference, in which Cyril Ramaphosa was elected as its new leader and South Africa’s likely next president after 2019 elections, following Jacob Zuma.

“Delegates endorsed the proposal that we must give practical support to the oppressed people of Palestine and resolved on an immediate and unconditional downgrade of the SA (South Africa) Embassy in Israel to a Liaison Office,” new ANC Secretary General Ace Magashule said on Thursday.

There was no immediate comment from Israel’s Foreign Ministry.

South Africa’s ministry for international relations and cooperation said on its website that it was deeply concerned about Trump’s move as it would undermine Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking, which has been frozen since 2014.

The South African Board of Jewish Deputies and the South African Zionist Federation jointly condemned the ANC’s decision.

The 193-member U.N. General Assembly will hold a rare special session on Thursday at the request of Arab and Muslim states to vote on the draft resolution, which Washington vetoed on Monday in the 15-member U.N. Security Council.

Most countries regard the status of Jerusalem as a matter to be settled in an eventual Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, although that process has been frozen for over three years.