As the world observes United Nations International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people, the South African government has announced its renewed commitment to a just and lasting solution to the question of Palestine.
In a statement issued on Thursday, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) said the prolonged Palestinian struggle against dispossession and the fragmentation of the State of Palestine has resulted in the aggressive displacement of many Palestinians seeking refuge, mainly in the Middle East.
"In the past decades, civilians have been denied their dignity and fundamental rights to free movement, education, healthcare and even the right to life.
"With each passing day, the number of Palestinians in need of humanitarian assistance increases. It has therefore become clear that the conflict between Palestine and Israel feeds into the wider regional dynamics by having a negative effect on peace, economic development, socio-political progression and security throughout the entire region."
South Africa, Dirco said, remains concerned and condemns the continued illegal settlement expansion by Israel, which constitutes a contravention of international law, particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949.
"The ongoing Israeli settlement activity in the occupied territories is a fundamental obstacle to a return to negotiations and a grave threat to the very existence of a future Palestinian state as well as a safe and secure Israel. South Africa calls for the effective and immediate implementation of resolution 2334 (2016), which reaffirms that Israeli illegal settlements have no legal validity," reads the statement.
The department said South Africa believes that the only way to bring about lasting peace in the Middle East is to have a two state solution for Palestine and Israel based on the international recognition and independence of the State of Palestine.
This, further reads the statement, would be based on the 4 June 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, functioning within recognised and secure borders and living side-by-side in peace with Israel and its other neighbours, as endorsed in the Quartet Roadmap, the Madrid Principles, the Arab Peace Initiative and the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.
"South Africa believes that there can be no military solution to the conflict and that peaceful negotiation is the only means of ensuring lasting peace, security and stability. In this regard, South Africa encourages the call on all parties in multilateral forums such as the UN, the Arab League and the African Union to negotiate in good faith in order to reach a permanent and just solution," Dirco said.
The department said South Africa welcomes the ceasefire brokered by Egypt between Palestine and Israel on 13 November 2018 following two days of Israel's aerial attacks on Gaza, making this the most severe flare-up since the 50-day conflict in 2014.
"We further call for maximum restraint and express the hope that there will be no renewed escalation in Gaza or in any of the occupied Palestinian Territories," the department said.
South Africa has also expressed its deep concern regarding the budgetary shortfall that the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) presently faces.
"We therefore continue to appeal to the international community to continue and increase support and humanitarian assistance to UNRWA, which seeks to restore the dignity of the Palestinian People by improving their living conditions through the provision of emergency relief, health and social services, descent accommodation, and access to education.
"As a symbolic gesture, South Africa remains committed through its annual financial contribution to UNRWA in order to assist the agency to effectively carry out its mandate in addressing the plight of Palestine refugees," said Dirco.