‘I will reopen the South African embassy in Israel in Jerusalem’ says presidential candidate

Rev. Kenneth Meshoe pro-Israel stance, deeply rooted in his Christian faith, has attracted both attention and controversy.

By Sveta Listratov, TPS

Rev. Kenneth Meshoe, a candidate in South Africa’s May 29 parliamentary elections, stands out in the political arena for his staunch support of Israel.

“The first thing I will do, I will reopen the South African embassy in Israel, not in Tel Aviv as it used to be, but in Jerusalem,” Meshoe told The Press Service of Israel in an exclusive interview.

Bold words coming on the same weekend as Israeli and South African legal representatives argued about Rafah before the judges of the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

South Africa petitioned the ICJ to order Israel to cease its military offensive against Hamas and for emergency orders to protect the town of Rafah, the last Hamas stronghold, from Israeli “genocide.”

Israel’s legal team responded that South Africa was twisting international law to help Hamas and blamed the casualty rate on Hamas, stressing that “rocket sites, tunnel shafts, command and control sites are all embedded among the civilian population in Rafah.”

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In January, the court issued a provisional ruling ordering Israel to “take all measures” to prevent “genocide,” but did not order the immediate ceasefire as South Africa sought.

Legal experts said it could take years for a final ruling on whether Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinians. South Africa suspended diplomatic ties and recalled its ambassador to Israel in November.

Meshoe slammed the government’s decision to petition the ICJ.

“Our leaders are not asking why the countries that reside near Israel are not taking Israel to the court. Because they know more than us, residing thousands of miles away,” he told TPS-IL.

“We are working hard, campaigning, and praying that the ANC will be out of power, and after that, we’ll reverse the mess they have done.”

At least 1,200 people were killed, and 252 Israelis and foreigners were taken hostage in Hamas’s attacks on Israeli communities near the Gaza border on October 7. Of the 128 remaining hostages, some 40 are believed dead.

Meshoe’s pro-Israel stance, deeply rooted in his Christian faith has attracted both attention and controversy. Recently, members of the African Christian Democratic Party, which he leads, were confronted by an anti-Israel mob upon arriving at a political debate, Meshoe noted.

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At the end of the event, the members had to leave under police protection. Despite these challenges, Rev Meshoe remains undeterred.

“We are used to this. I told our members that there will be no form of intimidation to silence us,” he said. “The majority of South Africans love Israel. Unfortunately, their voices are not as loud as those of Israel’s enemies.”

“Israel is the only one from Western countries that never colonized any other country. When people criticize Israel, I think for myself, read for myself, and try to see what Israel has done wrong. My answer is that it’s nothing but jealousy. Israel is more successful than they expected, and so they want to bring it down,” said Meshoe.

“If a nation is as successful as Israel, we need to learn from it,” he insisted, highlighting Israeli water tech as a pressing innovation his country needs.

“We have people in South Africa in villages who are sharing water with animals. There are Jewish companies that offered to help South Africa with that a few years ago, and the ruling party, ANC [African National Congress], refused to accept the offer. We want to see South Africans benefit from Israeli tech achievements.”

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Despite facing attacks from anti-Israel groups and mockingly being labeled a ‘Zionist’ by them, he remains steadfast in his convictions.

“If we win, and Bibi [Benjamin Netanyahu] is still the Prime Minister in Israel, before the end of the year, he will be invited to speak in our parliament,” Meshoe insisted.

The African National Congress has ruled South Africa since 1994, when apartheid was formally abolished. Opinion polls suggest that while it will remain the largest party in the National Assembly, it will not win the majority of the parliament and therefore be forced to govern for the first time with a coalition of other parties.

“We are not going to be intimidated, we will not change our names, our position, we will stand for what we believe,” Meshoe insisted to TPS-IL. “We say to Israel, we are your friend, and this friendship will not be broken by any form of intimidation, whether by Hamas or anyone else. Nobody will silence us.”