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South Africa’s post-apartheid foreign policy on Israel-Palestine

21 14 0
16.10.2019

South Africa’s foreign policy and diplomatic positions towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have been remarkably steady since the end of the apartheid regime and the election of Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) as President in 1994. Not only have Pretoria’s positions not been altered by the various changes of administrations and South Africa’s ascension to the status of “emerging power” on the international scene, but its actions have also been consistent, sometimes at the cost of its bilateral relations with Israel. Pretoria has recognised the State of Palestine, endorsed the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and supported all Palestinian diplomatic initiatives. The African National Congress (ANC) and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) enjoy historically close ties, to the point of calling themselves “brothers in arms”. Pretoria has also regularly trained Palestinian diplomats in an effort to rebalance the power asymmetry at the negotiation table. Those political affinities contrast sharply with very difficult and fluctuating bilateral relations with Israel, which collaborated with the apartheid regime, something that has not really been forgiven in Pretoria. However, Israel’s right to exist has always been endorsed fully by successive South African administrations.

South African officials draw a direct parallel between the former apartheid regime and the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. Like the Non Aligned Movement (NAM), Pretoria considers Palestine, together with Western Sahara, as unfinished decolonisation, which has been a priority on the South African foreign policy agenda since Mandela’s election. This parallel is symbolised by his famous 1997 quote: “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”

Pretoria systematically denounces Israeli practices in multilateral forums. “Occupation” appears more than 200 times in South Africa’s UN speeches on the Palestinian question since 2000. “Settlements” have been denounced 189 times, while “human rights” appears 104 times. This is twice as many occasions as appeared in Brazil’s speeches for the same period, another “emerging power” acting upon a similar morality-based concept of “principled diplomacy”.

READ: South Africa envoy condemns UN’s inability to inaction on Palestine resolutions

An increasing number of actors have criticised what is now known........

© Middle East Monitor