Most South African lawmakers on Tuesday (Nov. 21) backed a motion calling for the closure of the Israeli embassy and the cutting of diplomatic ties until Israel agrees to a cease-fire in Gaza. The government will decide whether South Africa cuts all ties with Israel.
The vote on the motion supported by the ruling African National Congress party came as President Cyril Ramaphosa in a meeting with other world leaders accused Israel of committing genocide in Gaza with its military offensive in the beseiged territory in search of its Hamas militant rulers.
The motion tabled by the opposition party Economic Freedom Fighters received the support of 248 parliament members while 91 lawmakers opposed it.
The vote came after Israel’s foreign ministry said it had recalled its ambassador to South Africa, Eliav Belotserkovsky, back to Jerusalem “for consultations.”
The two countries’ diplomatic relations have witnessed a rise in tensions over the war in Gaza.
Ramaphosa previously said his country believes Israel is committing war crimes in Gaza, where thousands of Palestinians have been killed.
South Africa announced last week that it had referred what it called Israel’s “genocide” in Gaza to the International Criminal Court for an investigation.
Its cabinet has called on the ICC to issue an arrest warrant against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Earlier this month, South Africa withdrew all its diplomatic staff from Israel.
Ramaphosa’s new comments Tuesday (Nov. 21) came in a virtual meeting of BRICS countries attended by leaders of the bloc including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
In a joint statement, the BRICS bloc said they called for “an immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities.”
Tensions between Israel and Hamas flared again after the Palestinian militant group launched a surprise attacks on Israel on Oct.7 killed about 1,200 people.
Israel’s retaliatory strikes on Gaza have killed more than 12,700 people, according to Palestinian health authorities.
During an interview to broadcaster SABC News the former South African ambassador to Israel, Sisa Ngombane, commended the “voice of the people of South Africa” that was expressed “through parliament”.
After the symbolic vote, it is now up to the South African executive to decide whether the country will cut ties with Israel.