Responding to the African Union Commission’s apparent unilateral move to grant the apartheid state of Israel observer status, Algeria referred to the Jewish state as “a Zionist entity.” The North African country which does not maintain diplomatic ties with Israel “strongly condemned the move and vowed to continue to give support to the Palestinian people.”
South Africa followed by “vehemently objecting (to the) unilateral” decision by the African Union Commission to grant Israel an official observer status at the continental organization, reported africanews.com.
In a strongly worded statement, South Africa, which last year held the annually rotating AU presidency, said it “is appalled at the unjust and unwarranted decision of the AU Commission to grant Israel observer status in the African Union.”
The South African foreign affairs minister slammed the move calling it “inexplicable and incomprehensible.”
“The decision to grant Israel observer status is even more shocking in a year in which the oppressed people of Palestine were hounded by destructive bombardments and continued illegal settlements of the land,” South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) said in a statement.
Israel was allowed to rejoin the continental body 19 years after it was ousted from the former Organization of African Unity (OAU) now known as the African Union due to pressure being applied by then Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi . Colonel Gadhafi chaired the AU in 2009 and nearly single-handedly helped reestablish and launch the continent-wide body.
Being ousted from the continental body is a far cry from “This corrects the anomaly that existed for almost two decades” as framed by Yair Lapid, Israel’s foreign minister. After receiving observer status, Aleligne Admasu, Israel’s ambassador to Addis Ababa, submitted a letter of credence as observer to the AU to Félix Tshisekedi, chairperson of the 55-member organization.
Over the years, according to Ahram.org.eg, the AU, adopting a pro-Palestinian stance in its official statements, rebuffed Israel and slammed its actions against the Palestinians. “In May it condemned Israeli attacks on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and Al-Aqsa Mosque and the evacuations in Sheikh Jarra,” reported Ahram.org.eg.
So why did Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairperson of the AU Commission—who has called for a peaceful solving of the Israel-Palestine issue through the “two-state solution”—provide the Jewish state observer status?
During the chairperson’s remarks made recently in a meeting with Aleli Admasu, Israeli Ambassador to Ethiopia, the two sides discussed the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to the AU statement.
During the meeting with the Israeli ambassador, Admasu expressed his appreciation of the opportunity to meet with Mahamat, saying it marked the beginning of a new phase in building Israel’s relationship with the region at a continental level. According to published reports, at no time did the Israeli ambassador mention discussion of a two-state solution.
What he did express was engaging with African states through the AU as being key to building multilateralism required for promoting the continental initiatives on Africa’s Agenda 2063, said the ambassador, reported xinhuanet.com.
What is not being said is giving Israel observer status nullifies the African Union’s leverage in terms of championing the Palestinian cause for self-determination, which the AU has historically done.
“Israel is a racist, apartheid state, so why should it have observer status at the AU? Before any such readmission was even considered, the union should have demanded that the Zionist state complies with the many UN resolutions hanging over it. It was a perfect opportunity to put pressure on Israel to withdraw from all Arab land that it occupies—Lebanese, Syrian and Palestinian alike—and facilitate the independence of the State of Palestine,” read a commentary on middleeastmonitor.com.
Human Rights Watch accused the Israeli military of carrying out attacks in May that “apparently amount to war crimes” during an offensive on the Gaza Strip that began on May 10.
The human rights organization’s conclusion after investigating three Israeli air raids that it said killed 62 Palestinian civilians, concluded that “there were no evident military targets in the vicinity” of the attacks.
The Palestinian territories already have observer status at the AU and pro-Palestinian language is typically featured in statements delivered at the AU’s annual summits.
South Africa said the AU Commission is guilty of making the “decision unilaterally without” consulting its members, reported Al Jazeera. South Africa also stated that it will ask Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairman of the AU Commission, to brief member states on the decision and it hopes the issue will be discussed at the level of heads of states and governments.
“South Africa firmly believes that as long as Israel is not willing to negotiate a peace plan without preconditions it should not have observer status” in the AU, the country noted.