The African Union (AU) ejected the Israeli delegation from its meeting in Addis Ababa as the row over Israel’s observer status escalated. The AU security agents removed the Israeli delegates from its closed-door meeting as the latter were not properly accredited to attend the meeting.
Diplomatic sources privy to this development highlighted that two representatives from Israel were removed from the meeting in light of dubious accreditation — they were removed because they had invalid badges and thus were not properly accredited to be in attendance of the closed-door meeting. The sources said that the representatives “sneaked in with fake badges”.
The AU later said that the delegates were asked to leave on “protocol reasons” because of improper accreditation status.
Israel did not take this fracas lightly. “Israel looks harshly upon the incident in which the deputy director for Africa, Ambassador Sharon Bar-Li, was removed from the African Union hall despite her status as an accredited observer with entrance badges,” the foreign ministry remarked.
The Jerusalem Post reported, “They [Israeli representatives] were expelled from the African Union conference hall in Addis Ababa, where Israel participated as an observer, on Saturday morning.”
However, Ebba Kalondo, the spokesperson for the African Union’s commission chairman, said the diplomat had been removed because she was not the duly accredited Israeli ambassador to Ethiopia, the official who was expected.
Israel immediately blamed South Africa and Algeria for the incident, saying they were “holding the AU hostage” and were driven by “hate”. These two countries have been vociferously opposed to the granting of observer status to Israel.
Israel is largely considered a colonial settler-state whose existence is premised on the murder and dehumanization of the Palestinian peoples. South Africa’s ruling party the African National Congress (ANC) has been historically supportive of the Palestinian struggle against Israeli and Western-sponsored imperialism.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry said the charge d’affaires at South Africa’s embassy would be summoned for a reprimand. The ANC has responded by saying that what the AU did was the right thing.
The national spokesperson for the ANC Mahlengi Bhengu-Motsiri said, “The ANC’s stated views on apartheid Israel remain relevant to this day. Independent reports of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch firmly define the character of Israel as that of an apartheid state. Instead of awaiting outcomes of deliberations on their possible observer status, Israel simply chose to undermine the AU’s 55 African member states.”
The AU granted Israel observer status last year, but this was met with opposition and the most vocal dissent came from South Africa. Israel’s Foreign Ministry argues that there is no basis to cancel its observer status in the AU’s laws; while South Africa counter-argues this by saying that Israel’s application to be granted observer status has not yet been decided upon by the AU.
Clayson Monyela, head of public diplomacy in South Africa’s department of international relations told Reuters, “Until the AU takes a decision on whether to grant Israel observer status, you cannot have the country sitting and observing…So, it’s not about South Africa or Algeria, it’s an issue of principle.”
The principal implication of being granted observer status is that the particular country granted such status cannot have a vote at the AU, but grants its diplomats a chance to join in high-level events and lobby for a positive policy.
Meanwhile, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh on Saturday addressed the AU summit — he blamed Israel for the damage is has wrought on Palestinian peoples, and said that the world has been conspicuously silent on the grave atrocities perpetuated against Palestine. He however said that they are ready to negotiate a two-state solution despite Israel’s intransigence.