Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Naledi Pandor said recalling diplomats was normal practice across the world and this was done when there was a situation causing concern.
MINISTER of International Relations and Co-operation Naledi Pandor has given reasons regarding government’s decision to recall diplomatic officials from Israel.
Pandor said there was nothing strange about this, and this was normal practice where there was an issue causing a great deal of concern to government.
Pandor, who was meeting her Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, in Pretoria on Monday, said they were concerned about the escalation of the conflict in Gaza.
She said it appeared Israel was using the policy of collective punishment, as thousands of women, children, and innocent people have been killed in the conflict.
She also lashed out at the Israeli ambassador to South Africa, Eliav Belotserkovsky, for his “disparaging” remarks.
Cabinet earlier said the Department of International Relations and Co-operation must take appropriate steps against Belotserkvoky for his conduct.
Pandor said the remarks by the Israeli ambassador were akin to remarks made by US ambassador to South Africa Reuben Brigety a few months ago when he accused Pretoria of supplying arms to Russia.
She said ambassadors must conduct themselves properly and not make unsubstantiated claims in a host country.
But Pandor said the decision they took to recall diplomats from Israel was not unique to South Africa.
“Why recall our embassy officials? This is normal practice when there is a situation which is causing a great deal of harm and concern to our country. You would get your officials to come back to the national setting in order to provide you with a full briefing so that you can make a determination as to whether there is any potential for you to be of assistance and whether the continued relationship is actually able to be sustained in all terms,” said Pandor.
“We need to have this engagement with our officials because, as you are aware, we are extremely concerned at the continued killing of children and innocent civilians in Palestinian territories. We believe the nature of response by Israel has become one of collective punishment, which falls outside the practice of international humanitarian and international human rights law.”
Pandor said that in this way, they were signalling the concerns of South Africa.
In addition, they are calling for the cessation of hostilities in the Middle East.
The war has been raging since early October and thousands of people have been killed.
On the issue of the Israeli ambassador, Pandor said he has been making a number of disparaging remarks in the country.
“We felt it was important that we call the ambassador in, and he should really desist from making the kinds of statements he is making without having had any discussions with senior members of government of South Africa,” said Pandor.
She said ambassadors never behave in the manner he has and his conduct was similar to that of Brigety.
She said South Africa’s diplomats were told how to conduct themselves on foreign missions.