President Cyril Ramaphosa says South Africa is committed to being part of international efforts aimed at reviving a political process that will lead to the establishment of a viable Palestinian state, existing side-by-side in peace with Israel, and within internationally recognised borders.
In his weekly newsletter on Monday, the President said the two-state solution remains the most viable option for the people of Israel and Palestine, and must continue to be supported.
“The escalating situation in Israel and Palestine affirms once more what we South Africans know too well, that intractable conflicts can only be solved through peaceful negotiation.
“It also demonstrates that unless the root causes of a conflict are addressed, in this case the illegal occupation by Israel of Palestinian land and the denial of the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination, there will never be peace,” President Ramaphosa said.
The latest violence was sparked by an Israeli court decision to evict a group of families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in East Jerusalem to make way for Israeli settlements.
“The sight of men, women and children being evicted from the homes their families have lived in for generations brings back painful collective and personal memories for the majority of South Africans – of forced removals and land dispossession.
“For all who believe in equality, justice and human rights, we cannot but be moved and indeed angered, at the pain and humiliation being inflicted on the Palestinian people; for it echoes our own,” he said.
The President said Israel’s actions are a violation of international law.
“They show a total disregard for successive United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions that call for an end to the occupation of Palestinian land and for the fulfilment of the rights of the Palestinian people,” the President said.
Since Israeli security forces launched assaults on worshippers at Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem last week, the violence has now engulfed the Gaza Strip, large parts of the West Bank and a number of Israeli cities. It has claimed the lives of dozens of people, including children.
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), at least 40 children have been killed in Gaza since 10 May. Over half of them were under 10 years old.
“It is also deeply troubling that Israeli forces last week destroyed a multi-storey building that housed a number of media organisations, sending a chilling message to media reporting on the violence.
“The senseless and continued Israeli bombardment of Gaza will have devastating consequences for more than two million people who have been suffering under an illegal Israeli blockade for 14 years. As is always the case, it is civilians who will bear the brunt, with their homes and livelihoods destroyed,” Ramaphosa said.
He said every effort must be made to dissuade both sides from further escalation, and to end the violence that is causing fear, death and misery on both sides.
“We call on all parties involved to show restraint, to respect human life, and to cease the current hostilities.
“Far too many lives have been lost to this intractable conflict. The continued occupation of Palestinian land and the suffering of the Palestinian people is a blight on the conscience of humanity,” the President said.
He said South Africa stands with the Palestinian people in their quest for self-determination and in their resistance against the deprivation of their human rights and the denial of their dignity.
“As citizens of a country that was able to turn its back on race-hatred and bloodshed and build an inclusive society rooted in human rights for all, it is our collective hope that the people of Israel and Palestine will follow a similar path; that they will find each other, and that they will find peace,” the President said.