Charisse Zeifert

Charisse Zeifert’s article in the Sunday Times on Israel’s participation in the AU


OPINION

More AU countries are choosing closer ties with Israel, to their benefit SA's grandstanding about Palestine and the world's sole Jewish state is leaving it increasingly irrelevant

OPINION

More AU countries are choosing closer ties with Israel, to their benefit SA's grandstanding about Palestine and the world's sole Jewish state is leaving it increasingly irrelevant

06 March 2022 - 00:00

BY CHARISSE ZEIFERT

A growing number of Arab countries have chosen to normalise their relations with Israel, and clearly more and more African countries are forging stronger ties with it, to the mutual benefit of all, says the writer. Stock image.

A growing number of Arab countries have chosen to normalise their relations with Israel, and clearly more and more African countries are forging stronger ties with it, to the mutual benefit of all, says the writer. Stock image.

Image: Reuters/Tiksa Negeri

SA got a huge wake-up call at the AU Heads of State summit in Ethiopia on January 6. Together with Algeria, it had spearheaded a campaign to rescind last year’s decision by the AU to grant Israel observer status. So convinced was the South African government that it would be successful in this task that department of international relations & co-operation (Dirco) spokesperson Clayson Monyela tweeted earlier that day that this had been an outcome of the conference.

A bit later, he had to concede: “Apologies for the earlier confusing language. I’ve deleted the tweet. The statement should read: The AU Summit has deferred the final decision on Israel’s observer status in the AU to a Committee of Heads of States.”

The failure of the campaign to expel Israel is what is concerning to the Palestinian ambassador to SA, Hanan Jarrar, as shown in her piece in the Sunday Times on February 27, “The AU should not be rewarding an apartheid state”. But does the AU decision, as she claims, undermine “the anti-colonial values of the AU and the work of international human rights organisations”? Or is something else taking place in world geopolitics? I would argue the latter.

In his articulate and well-reasoned statement, AU Commission chair Moussa Faki Mahamat explained his decision last year to give Israel observer status in the first place.

The world is moving on. A growing number of Arab countries have chosen to normalise their relations with Israel

His argument centred on the stated objectives of the AU, which lists as one of its aims, “an Africa which acts as a player and a strong, united and influential partner on the international scene”. Mahamat reasoned that by allowing Israel status he was in fact furthering this objective, and that, as chair of the commission, he was well within his rights to do so. The reasons he gave for including Israel were compelling. In a nutshell:

Forty-four of the AU member states already have ties with Israel;

Many of those member states expressly asked for Israel to be accredited, and those numbers outweighed those who did not recognise Israel;

Even Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, was working with Israel “to enhance civilian and security co-operation”, while Egypt was playing a positive mediation role in bringing the parties together; and

The AU itself could play a role in bringing about peace: “Why and in the name of what should we deprive ourselves the use of a political and diplomatic tool to contribute to peace between the two peoples?”

It’s a good question. The current impasse between Israel and Palestine in terms of finding peace is distressing. Both peoples are entitled to a safe and secure homeland. What the past 70 years has taught us, however, is that while both sides need to negotiate their own peaceful transition, they’ve to date shown an incapacity to do so.

The AU should not be rewarding an apartheid state

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OPINION & ANALYSIS1 week ago

And the world is moving on. A growing number of Arab countries have chosen to normalise their relations with Israel, and clearly more and more African countries are forging stronger ties with it, to the mutual benefit of all. The anti-Israel lobby clearly failed to take this into account at the AU summit.

In lieu of reaching a consensus at the summit, a committee comprising Algeria, SA, Nigeria, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Cameroon was set up to consider the issue. Its recommendations will be discussed at next year’s summit. Israel is to remain an accredited member of the AU until then.

Since the AU Summit, there have been further seismic changes on the geopolitical front. After Russia’s incursion into Ukraine, Israel has already distinguished itself for its practical contribution to the humanitarian efforts in the region. Yet, SA cannot let go of its obsessive animosity towards the world’s sole Jewish state. Maligning Israel might make those who hate that country feel better about themselves, but it does nothing to help the Palestinian people.

Maybe it’s time for a change of tactic, one that involves less reliance on traditional ideological solidarity and focuses instead on finding ways to help progress towards peace. Right now, SA is finding itself more and more out of step with international trends, and far from either helping the Palestinians or harming Israel, its grandstanding on the Israel-Palestine issue is rendering it increasingly irrelevant on the global stage.

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