Palestine is looking to South Africa to help broker peace in the Middle East when it takes up its seat at the all-powerful UN Security Council following “threats” from the US government against the occupied territory.
The Palestinian ambassador to South Africa Hashem Dajani said his government views the United States administration’s decision to close the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s (PLO) offices in Washington as a “threat”.
The American government’s State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert made the announcement on Monday, that the Trump administration had decided to terminate the Palestinian mission in Washington because the PLO had not “taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel”.
The move comes just nine months after Trump declared that the US would now treat Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, defying international consensus on the holy city and a United Nations resolution.
The UN voted against Trump’s proposal for Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital, but the US government ignored the determination and moved its embassy from the official capital, Tel Aviv, to Jerusalem.
South Africa’s department of international relations did not respond to a request for comment at the time of publishing, but Dajani has called the closure of the PLO mission a “threat” by the US government.
“It is really a dangerous escalation to show that the United States is willing to disband the international system in order to protect Israeli crimes,” Dajani said.
“The rights of the Palestinian people are not for sale and we will not succumb to United States threats. We will continue our legitimate struggle for freedom, justice and independence by all political and legal means possible,” he continued.
South Africa has always positioned itself in its foreign policy as an ally to Palestine, and advocates for a two-state solution in the region.
Following fatal attacks from Israel on Gaza in May, international relations minister Lindiwe Sisulu said the government would downgrade its embassy in Israel and withdraw its ambassador Sisa Ngombane with immediate effect and “until further notice”.
Dajani has praised the South African government for “playing a leading role in international solidarity with the Palestinian people”. In June, South Africa was elected onto the UN Security Council after it was nominated by the Southern African Development Community. The nomination was endorsed by the African Union, and the country was elected to serve on the council for the 2019-2020 term.
Dajani said he hoped the South African government would use its seat to advocate for peace in the Middle East, as well as in the rest of the world.
“Soon, South Africans will occupy [a seat] as a member of the Security Council and surely they will play a constructive role for building peace,” he said.