SA takes measured approach to peace plan

  • PeacePlan
The South African government has responded cautiously to the United States’ new Peace to Prosperity plan for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
by TALI FEINBERG | Jan 30, 2020

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) said South Africa “continues to support international efforts aimed at the establishment of a viable Palestinian state, existing side by side in peace with Israel within internationally recognised borders”.

This approach contrasts with a more emphatic reaction from the African National Congress (ANC). Speaking to the SA Jewish Report, ANC national spokesperson Pule Mabe said, “An effective peace solution must be inclusive. The ANC believes any peace solution that doesn’t include the participation of Palestine and Israel will have no legitimacy.”

US President Donald Trump unveiled the much-awaited peace plan on Tuesday at the White House alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Palestinian leadership was not present, nor involved in the plan.

The main points of the plan include the notion of two states, while safeguarding Israel’s security. The Israeli state would include all of its West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley, the strategically important piece of land that Israel has largely controlled since the Six-Day War in 1967.

The plan entails a four-year freeze on the expansion of Israeli settlements. The Palestinians would have their own system of government throughout their state, but Israel would retain security control over all the territory. Jerusalem would remain Israel’s capital, and the Palestinian capital would be in East Jerusalem. The plan allows for Palestinians to travel freely between Gaza and the West Bank.

DIRCO said the establishment of a viable Palestinian state existing side by side in peace with Israel should be “within internationally recognised borders, based on those existing on 4 June 1967, prior to the outbreak of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, with East Jerusalem as its capital, in line with all relevant United Nations resolutions, international law, and internationally agreed parameters”.

“South Africa believes that only initiatives developed with the full participation of the people of Palestine can achieve lasting peace, and it remains consistent in its view that genuine inclusive, open dialogue can resolve the current impasse.”

Said DIRCO spokesperson Clayson Monyela, “South Africa maintains its principled position that any peace plan should not allow Palestinian statehood to devolve into an entity devoid of sovereignty, territorial contiguity, and economic viability. Doing so would severely compound the failure of previous peace-making efforts, accelerate the demise of the two-state option, and fatally damage the cause of durable peace for Palestinians and Israelis alike.”

Said Mabe, “The ANC reiterates its unequivocal support for the freedom of the people of Palestine, and that their struggle for self-determination is just and unapologetic. A true solution will not be found in any place other than Palestine and Israel.

“The ANC calls on the Israeli government to release all political prisoners, cease the expansion of settlements in the West Bank immediately, and stop the wanton and consistent attacks on Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip. [It] also calls on all organisations and people that support the cause of free Palestine to strengthen the solidarity campaign for a peaceful and just solution.”

Mabe also emphasised the need for South Africa to enact the resolution it adopted at its 54th national conference to downgrade its embassy in Tel Aviv, saying, “Downgrading the embassy is a practical act of solidarity with the oppressed people of Palestine in the face of the injustices and atrocities meted out against innocent civilians.”

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) said it was “disturbed” by the peace plan. “This deal is forcing Palestinians to buy a concealed item that is locked up in a box, and then put its trust in the country that has been the source of their suffering,” said Sonia Mabunda-Kaziboni, COSATU’s international secretary.

“COSATU rejects this plot. We remain resolute in support of the Palestinian cause, and we will never be silenced on this issue. We remain strong in our support for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) [movement] and all other efforts made in support of the cause. COSATU and its affiliates have resolved to embark on a continuous picket of the embassy and consulates of the US until the US stops its offensive in the Middle East. We look to the South African government to lead on this question, particularly since South Africa is uniquely placed as the one country that survived apartheid through international assistance.”

Darren Bergman, the Democratic Alliance (DA) Shadow Minister of Foreign Affairs, said, “The DA has noted the contents of President Trump’s peace proposal. We wait to hear how it is received by affected communities. It’s therefore too early to make any substantial input or declare support or lack thereof.

“The DA has long held the view that a two-state solution, where both Israel and Palestine are recognised as sovereign states, is ideal provided that both countries can live in peace without fear of attack. The DA concerns itself with the people of the Palestinian territories, Gaza, and Israel, and would support any initiative that empowers and brings them a better quality of life and stability to the region. We are cognisant of the fact that the people of Palestine, Gaza, and Israel should be allowed to decide this process without fear of political or violent intimidation.”

Wendy Kahn, the national director of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), said, “The SAJBD embraces any initiative that will bring the parties closer to the negotiating table. It’s our hope that the proposed peace plan will reinvigorate a peace process that has been dormant for far too long. Ultimately, we believe that the Israelis and Palestinians need to sit together to determine a viable and secure two-state solution. We applaud the US for its efforts in trying to restart talks towards solving this painful conflict.”

Rowan Polovin, the national chairperson of the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF), said, “The SAZF supports the right of Jews to live in their ancient biblical and indigenous homeland with Jerusalem as their capital. Alongside this, Israelis have the right to live in peace and security with their neighbours. This new peace plan recognises these rights, and offers the Palestinians a rare opportunity to achieve their stated aims, with international support and financial assistance, and move towards a better and prosperous future.

“Many Arab and Western countries have already expressed their support for this plan,” Polovin said. “We call upon the South African government to encourage the Palestinians to engage in meaningful dialogue and negotiations with Israel towards these aims.”

The SA Jewish Report also reached out to the Economic Freedom Fighters and African Christian Democratic Party for comment, but had not received any response at the time of going to press.

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