South Africa hits at AU Commission over decision to “reward” Israel with AU observer status

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The South African government has said that it is “appalled at the unjust and unwarranted decision of the AU Commission to grant Israel observer status in the African Union.”

Israel was granted observer status on July 23, 2021, after nearly 20 years of diplomatic efforts. The Israeli Ambassador to Ethiopia, Burundi, and Chad, Aleli Admasu presented his credentials to the Chairman of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat on Thursday, July 22, 2021 at the bloc’s headquarters in Addis Ababa.

Israel had held similar observer status at the Organization of African Unity until the organization was replaced by the AU in 2002. Subsequent efforts to regain this status had proven unsuccessful.

Having renewed its observatory status, the Israeli foreign ministry noted that “this corrects the anomaly that has existed for almost two decades and is an important part of strengthening the fabric of Israel’s foreign relations.”

However, a statement from the South African government, as sighted by Dennislaw News condemns the African Union Commission’s move to take “this decision unilaterally without consultations with its members,” adding that it is “inexplicable” when considered under the context of the “unjust actions committed by Israel [such as which] offend[s] the letter and spirit of the Charter of the African Union”.

The statement further adds that “the decision to grant Israel Observer Status is even more shocking in a year in which the oppressed people of Palestine were hounded by destructive bombardments and continued illegal settlements of the land. The African Union strenuously objected to the deaths of Palestinians and the destruction of civilian infrastructure.”

Tensions between Israel and Hamas intensified in May this year. Hamas is the group that governs the Gaza Strip, a self-governing Palestinian territory on the east coast of the Mediterranean. The intensified conflicts resulted in an 11-day onslaught feared as one of the heaviest Israeli attacks on the Palestinian region in history. The Palestinian death toll was over 248, some 66 of which were identified as children.

The South African government has subsequently affirmed its position that “as long as Israel is not willing to negotiate a peace plan without preconditions it should not have observer status in the African Union.”

According to Al-Jazeera, South Africa’s backing of Palestinian cause is not new, dating to the establishment of formal diplomatic relations in 1995, just a year after apartheid in the country was ended. However, South Africa’s embassy in Tel Aviv was in 2019, downgraded to a liaison office.

It is expected further that South Africa will request that the chair of the AU Commission briefs member states on this decision.