South African Ambassador to Lebanon and Syria, Sean Benfeldt, on Tuesday said South Africa will boycott the upcoming African-Israel Summit to be held in Togo in October.
Benfeldt, who described the event as a step to normalise African relations with what he labelled an “occupation state”, made his remarks during his meeting on Friday in Beirut, Lebanon.
He wa meeting with a delegation from the general secretariat of the Popular Conference of Palestinians Abroad, the Palestinian Information Centre (PIC) reported.
The South African ambassador highlighted what he believed was Israel’s inhumane blockade of the Gaza Strip, stressing the need for practical solutions to the humanitarian suffering of the population in the besieged territory.
Benfeldt also adopted the delegation’s proposal to invite ambassadors of African countries in Lebanon to a special meeting soon to talk about the summit with Israel and the need to boycott it.
Israel has been embarking on a major charm offensive in Africa.
Last July, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu led a delegation of business executives on a tour of Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Tanzania.
And in June this year, Netanyahu addressed the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) summit in the Liberia, where he offered water supplies and agriculture technology from Israel to Africa’s leaders, promising to liberate their countries from drought and food scarcity.
However, critics say Israel’s generosity comes at a price.
Israeli technology would solve Africa’s most urgent issues – as long as African nations opposed UN resolutions critical of Israel’s occupation of Palestine.
Apart from UN votes, Netanyahu is seeking partners to lobby the AU to grant Israel observer status.
Gaining observer status would enhance Israel’s relationship with African states and allow it to influence their voting at multilateral institutions such as the UN.
In July Edna Molewa, SA Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, who also heads the African National Congress (ANC) foreign affairs portfolio, questioned the African-Israel Summit during the ANC Policy Conference at Nasrec as the conference debated the possible downgrading or closure of the South African Embassy in Israel.
“We cannot turn a blind eye to Israeli efforts to galvanise support from Africa and elsewhere, with a view to undermining the Palestinian cause,” the Jewish Report quoted Molewa as saying.
The environment minister said the ANC also planned to “engage progressive forces on the continent on the need to develop a common position and posture in preparation for the upcoming African-Israel Summit scheduled for October 2017 in Togo”.
However, South Africa is now boycotting the African-Israel Summit.
– African News Agency (ANA)