South Africa has downgraded its embassy in Israel to a liaison office.
The office, located in Tel Aviv, has “no political mandate, no trade mandate and no development cooperation mandate. It will not be responsible for trade and commercial activities,” South African Foreign Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said last week. “The focus of the liaison office would be on consular and the facilitation of people-to-people relations,” Sisulu also said.
In May 2018, South Africa recalled its ambassador, Sisa Ngombane, “until further notice” after Israeli troops killed more than 50 Palestinian protesters and wounded hundreds during protests at the Israel-Gaza border, part of the so-called “Great March of Return.” The violence reached a peak on May 14, 2018 with the dedication of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.
With the downgrading of the embassy, and thus diplomatic relations with Israel, Ngombane will not be returning to Israel.
The downgrade comes nearly a year after the ruling African National Congress party called for the downgrading of the South African Embassy due to what it said was the “lack of commitment from Israel on Palestine.”