Lilongwe – The 41st Ordinary Summit of Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Heads of State and Government has objected to the unilateral decision by the Chair of the African Union Commission to grant Israel observer status at the continental organisation.
Israel’s observer status provides Tel Aviv with the opportunity to access and influence African policymakers for support, even as it continues to oppress Palestinians and forcibly occupy their territory. The AU has historically stood with the people of Palestine and supported a two-state solution in the Middle East.
A communiqué issued after the SADC Summit in Lilongwe, Malawi this week formalised a collective position on the matter after member states Botswana, Namibia and South Africa had individually condemned AU Commission Chairperson Mr Moussa Faki Mahamat’s unilateral decision on Israel on July 22.
The summit “expressed concern and objected to the unilateral decision taken by the African Union Commission to grant the State of Israel Observer Status to the African Union”.
Mr Mahamat has defended his decision, saying it reflects the position of the majority of AU members. He has also said objections to the decision will be discussed at the AU Executive Council in October.
In addition, the AU Commission Chair says the decision did not dilute the “unflinching commitment of the pan-African organisation to the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people, including their right to establish an independent National State, with East Jerusalem as its capital, within the framework of a global, fair and definitive peace between the State of Israel and the State of Palestine”.
Mr Mahamat’s decision has drawn condemnation from pro-Palestine groups and countries around the world.
Ironically, new SADC Chair President Lazarus Chakwera last year said Malawi would establish a diplomatic mission in the contested city of Jerusalem. Observers say this violates United Nations Security Council resolutions 476 of 1980 and 2334 of 2016, which seek to maintain Jerusalem as a shared territory.
Africa’s relations with Tel Aviv soured after the 1967 Arab-Israel Warm the same year that the Jewish state seized East Jerusalem from Palestine.
Israel does have diplomatic relations with 46 of the AU’s 55 members. By 1973, most African countries had severed ties with Israel, except for Southern African nations eSwatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius and apartheid South Africa.