If the multiparty coalition wins in 2024

Phumlani M. Majozi says our anti-Israel stance does not help the people either of Israel or Palestine

It is my hope that the Multiparty Coalition does well in next year’s election. Our foreign policy will only take a new, fresh direction if the African National Congress (ANC) loses power. However, that can only happen if people go out and vote for change.

We have had years of confused foreign policy; in some instances, harming our reputation around the world. As I’ve been reflecting on South Africa’s foreign policy lately, I was reminded of The Economist’s article published back in 2015, where the London’s magazine wrote that the ANC’s foreign policy ideology was “clueless and immoral”. Eight years later, you’d think that the ANC would have chartered a new strategic course on our foreign policy.

South Africans often talk about the domestic policy and socioeconomic changes that they would like to see post-2024 election, and that is fine. However, we should also talk about the changes we want to see in foreign policy post-2024.

To emphasise my points in this column, let me first ask a simple question. When our MPs voted to shut down the Israeli embassy in Pretoria recently, and suspend relations with Israel, what exactly were they trying to achieve? Does taking such steps get Israel and Palestine back to the negotiating table to work toward a peace agreement?

Our anti-Israel stance does not help the people of Israel and of Palestine in any way. In fact, it makes it difficult for us to play a meaningful role in attempts to achieve peace between Israel and Palestine. Israel will never trust us and will not view us as neutral. If one side does not trust us, then we will not be able to make a meaningful contribution toward the establishment of conditions that will facilitate negotiations.

We must understand that so long there are Israelis held hostage by Hamas since October 7, Israel will not stop the bombardment of Gaza.

We must face the reality and understand what it is we have an influence on. Going around calling Israel an “apartheid state” will not get Israel and Palestine to the negotiating table.

What compounds the Israel-Palestine problem is that religion is a factor in the conflict. It's not just a political issue, yet it seems we fail to face up to that fact. Fracturing our relations with Israel, one of the most sophisticated, advanced nations in the world, as we keep doing, is counterproductive.

Israel is one of the strong markets in the world, as it’s classified as a “high-income’ country by the World Bank. Technology is a huge sector in Israel, and the country ranks amongst the most innovative in the world.

To hear prominent South Africans like Ronnie Kasrils describing October 7 attacks by Hamas as “brilliant” is abhorrent. The painful thing is that Kasrils is not alone in this hatred for Israel.

Ibrahim Patel, the Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition, has said that he remains hopeful that South Africa will remain a beneficiary of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) program. But we keep risking our AGOA membership with our foreign policy that is anti-West, anti-Israel, pro-China, and pro-Russia.

Our actions and our future actions will shape our membership in the AGOA program. Our leaders must remember that.

On Al Jazeera recently, I saw an analyst arguing that the objective of Israel is the long-term destruction of Gaza. I do not agree. The goal is to destroy Hamas, not Gaza.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, has said that Israel has a “clear goal of destroying Hamas’s military and governing capabilities”. Another goal of Netanyahu’s government is to free Israeli citizens held hostage by Hamas in Gaza. These goals by Netanyahu’s government are understandable given the status of the war – Hamas must be destroyed. But then whether Hamas is eventually destroyed is something we cannot be sure of at this point. We will have to wait and see.

There is no doubt that the Multiparty Coalition would reposition South Africa on the global stage. It’s comprised of political parties that are not anti-West or anti-Israel. This, from my part, is welcomed. We cannot afford being anti-West, nor afford being anti-China. All we must do is pursue a balanced foreign policy – we do not have to and must try not choose a side in the battle of global superpowers.

Phumlani M. Majozi is author of a new book “Lessons from Past Heroes” and senior fellow at African Liberty. His website is phumlanimajozi.com. Follow him on Twitter: @PhumlaniMMajozi.