South Africa: Ahead of Crucial Agoa Forum, Pretoria Again Treads a Fine Line With Its Stance On Israel, Palestine, Gaza

Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel addresses the media on the state of South Africa’s readiness to host the AGOA Forum in Sandton, Johannesburg, October 26, 2023.

After engaging in energetic diplomacy with the US over Russia's invasion of Ukraine, South Africa is once again walking a tightrope, this time on the Israel-Palestine-Gaza crisis.

Pretoria is once again treading a fine line on a hot foreign policy issue, forced to navigate between its long-standing Palestine sympathies and its important Western economic ties, in a diplomatic tightrope walk that partly echoes its earlier acrobatics on Russia's war against Ukraine.

The government's initial failure to condemn Hamas for its brutal attack on Israel on 7 October -- in which it killed more than 1,400 people and took more than 200 as hostages; International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor's mysterious call with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh last week; her meeting with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi last weekend; and ANC statements appearing to deny the existence of a Jewish state have caused some concerns abroad.

Next week SA hosts the annual forum of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) which it nearly lost earlier this year because of US concerns -- particularly in Congress -- that it was siding with Russia in its war against Ukraine.

Energetic diplomacy by SA saved the Agoa Forum and also very likely SA's continued participation in the US programme which gives eligible African countries duty and quota-free access to the lucrative US market for many of their exports....

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