Below is an interview Political Analysis South Africa’s Managing Director and Political Analyst, Mzoxolo Mpolase, had with ANC NEC International Relations subcommittee member, Ebrahim Ebrahim.
Interviewer: The final text of the ANC Policy Conference related to the Israel-Palestine issue gives two options: a call to shut down the embassy or a call to downgrade the embassy and then there’s options three and four as issues that were discussed – specifically whether or not to have a risk analysis. So I just want to get a sense of the thinking behind this action. Is this, and I ask this question in relation to what the discussion documents had said, what the ANC NEC International Relations subcommittee proposed as a discussion point before the conference?
Ebrahim Ebrahim: Well, no. Those are the views that were expressed by the delegates who attended the meeting and of course, it’s not final. The matter will be discussed at our conference in December. There’s nothing final about it, I think the matter will be thoroughly discussed because this is just expressing the views that the delegates at this special commission on international relations, and the provinces, had, and I think that finally, the matter will be discussed at our conference in December. So there is nothing final about anything.
So, if it is, to be enacted or accepted and made final, one of the questions in probing around this issue is why this recommendation when the discussion document had re-affirmed the two-state solution, indeed at the 50th anniversary since the occupation. Why this huge step, even as views from delegates? Is this something the ANC had been thinking about?
No. Actually, I, myself, was a bit surprised by the views expressed by the delegates because of what was happening in Palestine. They expressed very strong views about things. But I mean, even if the final conference will take some type of decision, it doesn’t mean that the government is going to implement it. It’s the people who express very strong views about the whole thing and I think that is what is captured in that report. I think in December, there will be more discussions, but whatever appears in the document, it doesn’t follow (as government policy). You know, people come and express a lot of views but when it comes to government, they have to take into account a lot of other issues.
I have been speaking to the Israelis about this and though, they don’t have a position on this thus far because they are waiting for something more final to materialise, is that it looks very likely that they too would basically react proportionally; whether to downgrade or close their own embassy and indeed, maybe institute a visa regime between South Africa and Israel. So realistically, does that not hinder the ANC’s ability or South Africa’s ability to assist the Palestinians?
Yes, you see, I, personally, don’t think that they could close our embassy. Because, if we close our embassy (in Tel Aviv), we’ll also have to close our embassy in Ramallah, which is not going to assist the Palestinians. I don’t think the Palestinians want us to close our embassy in Ramallah; because I remember some time ago with Venezuela, they closed down their embassy (in Tel Aviv), and also had to do so for Ramallah. These are the things that the government will have to take into account. But in a conference like that, people will express strong views from the party, but when it comes to government, of course, they will have to look at all the implications of such a decision.
So, I guess, the final verdict is that it’s not final; it is merely views that were expressed by delegates at the conference. Indeed, it was surprising as you say, but it does not necessarily mean that the government will take it on as policy that they will implement.
No, there are a lot of things that the party could say. But when it comes to government, they have to take into account diplomatic considerations etc. The party allows members to express views, and it is good that the delegates do express their views about things that they feel strongly about. But that doesn’t mean that it would ultimately be implemented.