South Africa Won't Break Ties With Israel, Despite Heavy Pressure

Deputy president says maintaining relations gives country 'leverage' over Israel's actions.

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Pro-Gaza, anti-Israel demonstrators in Cape Town, August 9, 2014.
Pro-Gaza, anti-Israel demonstrators in Cape Town, August 9, 2014.Credit: Reuters

Despite strenuous demands voiced by local pro-Palestinian activists during the just concluded Israel-Gaza war, South Africa will not break ties with Israel, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa declared. reported Thursday that Ramaphosa told the country's provincial parliamentarians that maintaining relations with Israel allowed South Africa to influence the Jewish state's actions toward the Palestinians.

"It’s often best when you want to solve problems to remain engaged so that you can have some leverage, and this gave our president [Jacob Zuma] leverage to be able to send the two special envoys," Ramaphosa said Wednesday, referring to the two diplomats sent by Zuma during the war to confer with Israel and Hamas.

During the fighting, pro-Gaza demonstrations in South Africa drew tens of thousands of participants. The BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement is strong in the country, in part due to Israel's close ties with the pre-1994 apartheid regime, which contrasted with the Palestine Liberation Organization's strong support for the African National Congress, the once-banned movement that now rules the country.

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