JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA
EVEN former US Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, the master global strategist and negotiator, who died more than a month ago, left the world having not resolved the decades-long Israel-Palestine conflict. In his last major television interview with Germany’s Welt TV, after Hamas slaughtered and took hostage hundreds of Israelis, Kissinger said that the main goal of Hamas and its supporters “can only be to mobilize the Arab world against Israel and to get off the track of peaceful negotiations”. He also thought that Hamas’ “open act of aggression” must be punished.
Having visited both Palestine and Israel myself, moderated a radio debate on Israel-Palestine conflict, written a few articles on the issue, I have, like many around the world, concluded that the Israel-Palestine conflict is the most complex geopolitical issue of modern times. At this point, it all looks hopeless. However, we must not give up on our dreams of peaceful relations between Israel and Palestine.
Considering the complexity that I have spotlighted, it is my view that South Africa’s decision to head to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to launch a case “alleging that Israel’s military campaign in Gaza amounts to genocide”, as the Associated Press has reported, is ill-thought.
It’s another blunder by South Africa’s government and is counterproductive. It does nothing to advance the idea of a two-state solution.
Now let me be crystal clear, before some accuse me of being pro-Israel. I support neither side in the Israel-Palestine conflict. I’ve always held a view that both sides need to compromise, to achieve peace. I’ve expressed this view even in my previous writings. However, in my honest opinion and observation, Israel has compromised more than Palestine has.
South Africa’s decision to head to ICJ harms our relations with Israel, and most importantly, disadvantages the people of Palestine who have been let down by their leaders and radical elements like Hamas. People of Palestine will not benefit anything from this ICJ case we have started. It’s posturing from our part, with costs.
With this ICJ process, we demonstrate a lack of judgement on what we can achieve or can’t achieve with respect to our role in the Israel-Palestine issue.
Israel does not at any point, intentionally kill or target innocent Palestinians. Hamas did intentionally kill civilians on October 7. I believe it’s important to highlight that difference.
When Israel launches attacks against Hamas who are stationed in Gaza, it first gives warnings to avoid killing civilians. Israel didn’t just wake up in the morning and decided to go bomb Gaza post October 7. The bombing of Gaza was a reaction to Hamas’ October 7 attacks.
Every nation state would have reacted to the slaughtering of its citizens by a foreign entity. If a similar attack were to happen to us, we would expect President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government to retaliate, and rescue our citizens held hostage.
As I wrote not long ago, we must not expect Israel to stop its military campaign in Gaza till its kidnapped citizens have been released by Hamas. To expect anything otherwise is foolish because no nation state would have stopped such a military campaign. Fairy tales must be out of the window in matters of this kind.
This is a complex conflict in which many people have given up trying to find a solution.
I do not write here offering a solution. Who am I to offer a solution to an issue of this complexity? However, it’s important that we offer recommendations on how our government should position itself on this matter in year 2024.
South Africa wants to help Hamas terrorists
The potential powers of the ICJ under some circumstances is that it could order a ceasefire whilst it considers the application. So, this thing shouldn’t be seen as some kind of humanitarian issue. Effectively, what the South African government is doing is enforcing a ceasefire, which supports Hamas, and it doesn’t get out the Israeli hostages. South Africa is playing a blocking man; it’s playing a diplomatic role in supporting Hamas.
If you look at Syria, Iran, the Red Sea, there’s been an increased set of attacks over the past three months. The Houthis, an Iran-backed militia that has declared support for Hamas, “have attacked commercial shipping in the Red Sea more than 20 times using missiles, drones, fast boats and helicopters. They have claimed – often falsely – the ships were linked to Israel”, according to the BBC.
And if you join the dots, you’ll remember that Naledi Pandor, South Africa’s foreign affairs minister, visited Tehran, just after October 7. Also, when President Ramaphosa announced that South Africa would lay a complaint against Israel at the International Criminal Court (ICC), he did that from Qatar.
Considering what I have said above, what you see is that South Africa has taken an anti-West, anti-Israel posture again.
The White House believes that South Africa’s pursuit of Israel at ICJ has no merit. “We find this submission meritless, counterproductive, completely without any basis in fact whatsoever,” U.S. National Security Council Spokesperson John Kirby said this week.
We’ve got to ask ourselves; how much is this ICJ initiative costing the country? Court processes like this can be very expensive and can take years to reach a close.
What should we be doing?
To answer that question, there is another question, a very important one, that we must first answer; and that is, what is the long-term end goal? What do we want to achieve? Surely the end goal must be long-term peace between Israel and Palestine. People of Palestine should have their own country or state. They have made grave errors before by rejecting the offers of statehood that were made to them. Thanks to the greedy, power-hungry Palestinian elite.
However, it’s never too late. We have no other option, but to call for the two-state solution again. A new approach is needed in the process. Emotions must be put aside, and negotiations restarted. Both China and the US, as well as one Arab superpower, Saudi Arabia, must be involved in such negotiations.
There is very little influence we have here, unfortunately. Going to the ICJ does nothing other than reinforce our hostility toward Israel. There is no need to fracture our relations with Israel, as that achieves nothing. Israel distrusts us, which is unfortunate because if we want to make a meaningful difference, both parties should trust us.
We must be clear to both Israel and Palestine that peace is in their interest and would be good for the Middle East.
Both countries have a responsibility to recognise each other as two separate nations. That means there is nothing to negotiate with Hamas and Hamas must not be involved in the negotiation process.
What must also be understood is that going back to the mid-20th century, will prove very difficult, messy, and costly. In some situations, it’s better not to go back to the past as the conditions may not allow. Rather look into the future. Peace requires compromise and sometimes compromise is what can save lives or is the only option that can save lives.
I repeat what I have been saying lately: South Africa needs a new path on both domestic and foreign policy. That path can only be a reality if the ANC loses its dominance in this year’s election. Let’s go out and vote for change. PM
This article was first published on LinkedIn.
© PHUMLANI M. MAJOZI