South Africa’s ruling ANC decided to downgrade its embassy in Tel Aviv to a liaison office over a U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
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.
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.
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.
Israel deems Jerusalem its eternal and indivisible capital and wants all embassies based there. Palestinians want the capital of an independent Palestinian state to be in the city’s eastern sector, which Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East War and annexed in a move never recognized internationally.
The ANC’s move comes at a time when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been pursuing closer ties with other African countries.
This article first appeared on VOA News and can be accessed here.