Israel and South Africa: emotion versus realpolitik

27 January 2022
South Africa President and Israel ambassador

President Cyril Ramaphosa and Israel Ambassador Eliav Belotsercovsky / supplied

A terse announcement on Twitter two days ago from my country’s president:

His Excellency President @CyrilRamaphosa receives Letter of Credence from the Ambassador of the State of Israel, His Excellency Mr Eliav Belotsercovsky, on the occasion of the Credentials Ceremony at the Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guesthouse in Tshwane #BetterAfricaBetterWorld

It’s about bloody time we accepted the ambassador’s credentials. That’s what supposed to happen when two countries have diplomatic relations. Instead, we have been dragging our heels since 2019 when we purportedly downgraded our embassy in Israel to a "liaison office". Of course that decision was announced by then Foreign Minister now Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, who is currently at odds with her boss.

Coincidence? I don't care. Enlightened self-interest should be our priority in dealing with every other country. Consider the relationships between our fellow members of BRICS and Israel.


Brazil is full member state of the Israel Allies Caucus , an organisation which among its goals supports Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem. Brazil has agreements with Israel in the fields of science and technology; defense; public security; civil Aviation; cybersecurity; and health.


Russia is the largest supplier of oil to Israel . Israel and Russia allow visa-free travel between the two countries. Russia and Israel collaborate on medical matters, space technology.


India and Israel have a strategic partnership. India is the largest buyer of Israeli military equipment. Military and strategic ties between the two nations extend to intelligence-sharing on terrorist groups and joint military training. Under India Prime Minister Narendra Modi's administration, India abstained from voting against Israel in several United Nations resolutions. The two nations are negotiating an extensive bilateral free-trade agreement, focusing on areas such as information technology, biotechnology and agriculture.


The ties between China and Israel are too many to mention. Let me just highlight that China and Israel have developed close strategic military links with each other . According to a report from the United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission, "Israel ranks second only to Russia as a weapons system provider to China and as a conduit for sophisticated cutting edge military technology, followed by France and Germany."

Yes, I too want to see a free and independent Palestine, but we’re not going to assist that process by acting like the petulant teenager in a room full of adults.

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