South Africa slams AU provision of observer status to Israel

South Africa calls the African Union’s move ‘unjust and unwarranted’, complaining it was taken without consulting its members.

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The South African government announced that it was “appalled” by the African Union Commission’s verdict last week to grant Israel observer status at the African bloc.

In a statement published on Wednesday, the South African government said the “unjust and unwarranted” move was taken “unilaterally without consultations with its members.”

On Friday, Israel was given the status of an observer. Tel Aviv had formerly held the same role at the Organization of African Unity (OAU) but it had lost its position after the OAU was disbanded in 2002, and substituted by the AU.

According to the Israeli foreign ministry, the new status could enable Israel and the AU to forge stronger cooperation on various aspects, including the fight against COVID-19 and the prevention “of the spread of extremist terrorism” on the African continent.

However, the South African government said the African Union’s decision “is even more shocking in a year in which the oppressed people of Palestine were attacked by destructive bombardments and hit by the continuing formation of illegal settlements on its land.”

In May, tensions between Israel and Hamas escalated into an 11-day assault on Gaza. The Israeli offensive killed at least 260 people, including 66 children, while 13 Israeli citizens died.

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