African Union

South Africa slams African Union's decision to grant observer status to Israel

Moussa Faki Mahamat, the chairman of the African Union Commission, has been criticised over the way the commission acted in the process to grant observer status to Israel.
Moussa Faki Mahamat, the chairman of the African Union Commission, has been criticised over the way the commission acted in the process to grant observer status to Israel. AP - Ronald Zak

The South African government has hit out at the African Union's move to grant observer status to Israel.


The condemnation is shared by Algeria.

A statement from South Africa’s Department Of International Relations said the step was unjust and unwarranted.

It says the decision was taken unilaterally by the African Union Commission without consulting the 55 member states.

Chad Aleli Admasu, Israel’s ambassador to Ethiopia, presented his credentials to the AU Commission chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat last week.

Israel had observer status with the Organisation of African Union, the predecessor to the African Union and has tried to regain that status with the new body for nearly two decades.


Israel’s Foreign Minister, Yair Lapid, described the decision as a day of celebration for Israeli-African relations.

An Israeli Foreign Ministry statement said the new status could enable Israel and the AU to forge stronger cooperation on various aspects, including the fight against the coronavirus and the prevention of the spread of “extremist terrorism”.

However the Palestinian resistance group Hamas said: "It enhances the legitimacy of the [Israeli] entity on our land and gives it more opportunities to continue its plans to erase Palestinian rights and continue its brutal crimes against our people.”

The statement says the Palestinian people used to consider the African countries as a natural extension of its struggle for freedom and independence.

It called on African states to expel Israel from the AU and place sanctions on the country.

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad says the AU Commission decision reflected the extent of the Zionist influence that had reached the point of hegemony over the African Union.

The group’s spokesman says the decision posed a serious threat to the security and stability of African countries.

The South African statement said: "The AU’s decision is even more shocking in a year in which the oppressed people of Palestine were hounded by destructive bombardments and continue illegal settlements of their land.”

Embassy downgraded

Two years ago, South Africa downgraded its embassy in Tel Aviv to a liaison office.

A year after the end of apartheid in 1994, democratic South Africa established formal diplomatic relations with Palestine.

The foreign ministry of South Africa, which last year held the rotating chairmanship of the continental body, said that Mahamat must fully brief member states on the decision to grant Israel observer status, which Palestine already has, with the AU.


South Africa wants the issue to be discussed at the AU summit  of heads of state and government.

“South Africa firmly believes that as long as Israel is not willing to negotiate a peace plan without preconditions with Palestine it should not have observer status in the AU,” the Department of International Relations said.

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning

Keep up to date with international news by downloading the RFI app