Israel recalls envoy to South Africa after Pretoria calls for Netanyahu’s arrest

The South African gov’t has repeatedly described Israel’s campaign in Gaza as ‘genocide’ and has filed a referral to the International Criminal Court against Israel for war crimes.

Pro-Palestinian activists outside the US Consulate in Johannesburg on November 4. Photo: Marco Longari / AFP
Pro-Palestinian activists outside the US Consulate in Johannesburg on November 4. Photo: Marco Longari / AFP

(THE TIMES OF ISRAEL) Israel recalled its Ambassador to South Africa for consultations on Monday following a series of highly antagonistic comments and steps by the government in Pretoria over its military campaign in Gaza.

Earlier on Monday, a South African government minister called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to issue an arrest warrant for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by mid-December.

South Africa has already recalled its own ambassador and diplomatic staff from Israel, and the government has repeatedly described Israel’s Gaza campaign as “genocide.”

“Against the background of recent comments from South Africa, the Israel ambassador to South Africa has been called for consultations in Jerusalem,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

During a press briefing on Monday, South African Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said the government expected the ICC to issue an arrest warrant against Netanyahu, and failure to do so would represent a failure of global governance.

“The world cannot simply stand by and watch. The global community needs to rise to stop this genocide now,” she said.

She noted that South Africa’s ambassador to The Hague in the Netherlands had filed a referral to the ICC “to investigate the commission of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide” against Israel last week, together with the Comoros, Djibouti, Bolivia and Bangladesh.

“Given that much of the global community are witnessing the commission of these crimes in real-time, including statements of genocidal intent by many Israeli leaders, we expect that warrants of arrest for these leaders including Prime Minister Netanyahu will be issued shortly,” said Ntshavheni.

“Failure to do so will be indicative of a lack of will to act by the ICC and a strong signal to the total failure of the global system of good governance.”

Earlier this month, the South African government recalled its ambassador and diplomatic mission to Israel, described the war in Gaza as “genocide,” and said it was considering shutting down the Israeli embassy in Pretoria entirely.

And last week, a spokesperson for the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party said the party “Cannot sit back and watch the genocidal actions of the Israeli regime.”

Seven other countries have taken diplomatic steps against Israel, since the beginning of its war against Hamas, including Bolivia, Turkey, Jordan, Colombia, Chile, Honduras, and Chad.

Pretoria has long been an ardent supporter of the Palestinians, and the ANC has sought to link its struggle against the apartheid regime in South Africa to the demands of the Palestinians for an independent state.

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