The ANC caucus in Parliament has refused to meet with delegates from the Israeli unicameral Parliament, because it believes Israel has “undermined” a two state solution by legalising Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Israeli ambassador to South Africa Arthur Lenk sent an invite to the caucus to request that it meets with Israeli delegates from the Knesset (Israel’s unicameral Parliament). According to a press statement released by Siphosezwe Masango, the chairperson of the ANC’s parliamentary study group on international relations, the caucus refused.
“The disquiet of our Parliament arises from among other concerns the Israeli Kissnet having passed legislation which retrospectively legalises settlements into Palestinian territories, thus undermining the two-state solution the South African government supports,” Masango said.
In February, the Kissnet passed the Regularisation Bill which legalises Israeli expropriation of Palestinian-owned land in the West Bank.
The construction of Israeli homes on Palestinian land is retroactively legalised by the Bill, with Palestinians being compensated with money or alternative land even if they do not consent to the Israeli constructions.
The United Nations advised against the adoption of the Bill prior to the Kissnet vote, warning it would threaten peace in the region.
“If adopted into law, it will have far-reaching legal consequences for Israel and greatly diminish the prospects for Arab-Israeli peace,” said Nickolay Mladenov, a member of the UN envoy for the Middle East.
In December 2016, the UN Security Council said that the Israeli settlements have “no legal validity”. The Security Council passed Resolution 2334 which condemned Israeli settlements as a “flagrant violation” of international law and demanded Israel discontinue its settlement activity.
The latest move by the ANC to decline Lenk’s invitation comes after the party adopted a policy recommendation to downgrade the South African embassy in Israel. The recommendation, which was adopted at the party’s national policy conference in July, was made by the ANC in the Western Cape.
“The initial call by some provinces was that we close our embassy in Israel. However, a consensus agreement was reached that we recommend a downgrade to a Liaison Office,” said ANC Western Cape provincial secretary Faiez Jacobs.
On Tuesday, Masango said that the ANC is “unequivocal” in its support for the Palestinians’ “fight for self-determination”.
“The continuous killings of Palestinians by the Israeli Security Forces, administrative detentions, deportations and many other human rights violations also form part of the reasons why the ANC caucus cannot allow itself to be co-opted into this charm offensive by Israel through this parliamentary visit,” he said.