SA re-affirms commitment to Palestinian cause
Ambassador Obed Bapela
By Hassan Isilow
PRETORIA: The South African Government joined the international community on Thursday in commemorating the United Nations International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. ‘‘We wish to take this opportunity to re-affirm our commitment of supporting the Palestinian people and their struggle for liberation and self determination’’ Ambassador Obed Bapela read out a statement on behalf of the South African Government at a function held in Pretoria.
He said the South African Government had also decided to vote for the Palestinian bid for non- member observer state at the United Nations general assembly in New York, because of its longstanding unwavering commitment to the Palestinian freedom.
Bapela said South Africa believes that the new Palestinian status at the UN general assembly was a necessary step in the advancement of the Palestinian cause. He also called for a moment of silence to remember the late Palestinian Ambassador to South Africa Ali Halime who passed away two months ago.
‘‘The South African Government would like to send its heartfelt condolences to the people of Palestine and members of the diplomatic community present at this function following the untimely death of our colleague Ambassador Ali Halime’’ He said adding that the late Halime was a man who wanted to see peace in his country.
Bapela said the South African Government believed that the Palestinian issue would be best resolved through diplomatic means rather than using violence. He also condemned the recent rocket attacks committed by both Israeli and Palestine. ‘‘ we also believe that the only way to bring about lasting peace in the Middle East, is to have a comprehensive and unconditional negotiated settlement to end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese territories and Israel’s continued blockade of Gaza.’’
He said adding that this would contribute towards peace and security throughout the Middle East. Baphela noted that the delay in achieving such a settlement will lead to an unending cycle of violence, as tragically witnessed during the last two weeks between Israeli forces and Palestinian militant groups.
To put emphasis on South Africa’s diplomatic approach to solving the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, Baphela quoted a speech read out at the UN general assembly on November 4 1974, by the late Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) leader Yasser Arafat ‘‘Today I have come here bearing an olive branch and a freedom fighters gun but do not let the olive branch fall from my head ’’ he said this historic speech made by Arafat was intended to seek the intervention of the international community in resolving the Palestinian-Israeli issue diplomatically, but unfortunately the international community did not immediately intervene. He said South Africa remained strongly critical of the ongoing defiance of the Government of Israel in refusing to halt the illegal settlement expansion in the occupied Palestinian West Bank and East Jerusalem, thereby complicating any possible resumption of substantial negotiations. ‘‘We therefore, on this day, once again call on Israel to stop its policy of settlement expansion, including in East Jerusalem, and to realise that the only way to achieve peace is through creating an environment for a two-state solution, where Israel will be able to exist side-by-side in peace with a viable and fully independent Palestinian state within internationally recognised borders, based on those of 4 June 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital.’’
The United Nations International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People was attended by several Diplomats, SA Government officials, and members of the civil society, religious leaders and academics among others.