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South Africa May Downgrade Ties With Israel Over Palestinian Issue

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress party is calling for the downgrading of the country’s embassy in Israel to signal displeasure with the occupation of the Palestinian territories.

The move would “send a strong message about Israel’s continued illegal occupation of Palestine and the continued human rights abuses against the peoples of Palestine,” read a statement from a party committee that approved new positions on international relations.

The government would have to adopt the committee’s resolutions. But that is possible, considering that the ANC, which led the country out of apartheid, controls the levers of the country’s government.

National elections are expected in 2019 and the ANC may see the anti-Israel push as a popular move.

Arthur Lenk, Israel’s ambassador in South Africa, criticized the move as unproductive. “Any decision to downgrade the South African Embassy in Israel would only hurt South Africans and would have absolutely no impact on Israel or the Palestinians,” he said, in comments to the Times of Israel.

The move comes as Israel has made progress in strengthening ties with Africa, including some Muslim West African states that once shunned it.

Contact Daniel J. Solomon at solomon@forward.com or on Twitter @DanielJSolomon

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