South Africa, Namibia, Algeria reject Israel’s African Union observer status

South Africa, Namibia, Algeria reject Israel’s African Union observer status
The African Union convening Photo: Times of Israel / AP

The decision of the African Union (AU) to accept Israel as an observer has been greeted with opposition from some member-states.

On June 22, Israel submitted a letter of credence to rejoin the AU as an observer — which was accepted — 19 years after the country lost its status.

After the submission, Yair Lapid, Israel’s foreign minister, attributed the milestone to the efforts of the foreign ministry, noting that the “diplomatic achievement” will correct the anomaly that has existed in the country’s relationship with Africa.

“This is a day of celebration for Israel-Africa relations. This diplomatic achievement is the result of efforts by the Foreign Ministry, the African Division, and Israeli embassies on the continent,” he had said.

South Africa, Namibia, and Algeria have now rejected the decision of Félix Tshisekedi, chairperson of the 55-member continental organisation, saying they were not consulted.

Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, Namibian international relations minister, in an interview with Namibian Sun, said the approval did not meet the basic principles of the AU.

Over the years, Namibia has accused Israel of occupying Palestine illegally against international protocol.

“We are rejecting that approval because it does not meet the basic principles of the African Union, which includes the right to self-determination,” Nandi-Ndaitwah said.

In the same vein, the South African Embassy in Ethiopia asked the AU chairperson to explain the rationale behind accepting Israel as an observer, considering that the country was rejected in 2013, 2015, and 2016.

“South African recalls that the union has consistently reiterated its support for the Palestinian people in security an independent and sovereign state with East Jerusalem as its capital and called on Israel to respect its international law obligations,” the South African government said.

“Notwithstanding, the powers of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission that arise from Part II of the Criteria for Granting Observer Status and for a System of Accreditation within the African Union.

“This issue is sensitive and consultation with member states should have been undertaken before a decision was made.

“The South African Government therefore requests the Chairperson to formally inform the member states of the union of the legal basis and political rationale for the granting of accreditation to the state of Israel.”

Similarly, the Algerian foreign ministry has rejected the decision, adding that it will not alter the support of AU for the Palestinian cause.

“Taken without the benefit of broad prior consultations with all member states, this decision has neither the vocation nor the capacity to legitimize the practices and behaviors of the said new observer which are totally incompatible with the values, principles, and objectives enshrined in the ‘Constitutive Act of the African Union,” the statement by the Algerian foreign ministry reads 

“The recent decision of the President of the Commission of the African Union (AU) to welcome a new observer who falls under its administrative prerogatives is not likely to alter the constant and active support of the continental organization to the just Palestinian cause.”