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African Union suspends debate on Israel’s status: Diplomats

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh (L) talks with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed during a gala dinner offered by the government of Ethiopia for the participants of the 35th ordinary summit of the African Union, in Addis Ababa, on February 5, 2022. (Photo by AFP)

Diplomats say the African Union (AU) has suspended a debate on whether to withdraw Israel’s accreditation, despite growing calls on the bloc to overturn last year’s decision to grant the “apartheid regime” an observer status.

“The Israel question has been suspended for now and instead there will be a committee set up to study the issue,” AFP quoted a diplomat as saying on Sunday, on the closing day of the AU’s annual summit in Addis Ababa.

The crisis began last July, when Moussa Faki Mahamat, chair of the African Union Commission, accepted Israel’s observer status in the bloc, triggering simmering tensions within the body.

According to AFP, diplomats said that the six-member committee will include South Africa and Algeria, who opposed Israel’s accreditation, as well as Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who supported it.

Cameroon also asked to be on the committee, while South Africa requested the inclusion of Nigeria as well, the diplomats said.

As the summit opened on Saturday, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said Israel “should never be awarded for its violation and for the apartheid regime it does impose on the Palestinian people.”

“Your excellencies, I’m sorry to report to you that the situation of the Palestinian people has only grown more precarious. The decision to grant Israel an observer status is a reward that [Tel Aviv] does not deserve, and we call for this decision to be withdrawn,” he said.

Ahmed Bahar, the deputy speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), also asked the AU to overturn the decision. “The Palestinian people, the Arab and Muslim nations and the world’s free people are awaiting an [African] decision expelling the occupation [from the Union] and severing all ties with it,” Bahar said in a statement on Saturday.

Back in July, Israel’s accreditation drew a sharp rebuke from powerful members of the AU, including South Africa and Algeria, which argued that it contradicted AU statements supporting the occupied Palestinian territories.

At the time, the regime in Tel Aviv hailed the decision, with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid saying, “This is a day of celebration for Israel-Africa relations.”

South Africa and Algeria are leading efforts to cancel the decision at the AU.

Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra condemned the decision as a “huge mistake,” saying if consultations had taken place among the AU members in advance, the decision would have certainly not been taken in the first place.

In a statement on Friday, the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas urged the AU not to accept the observer status of the occupying entity.

“The Israeli occupation state violates international law and international humanitarian law and refuses to implement dozens of international resolutions or to act on the recommendations of the UN committees that investigated its crimes,” the Gaza-based resistance group stated.

In October 2021, the executive council of the AU delayed its decision on accepting or revoking Israel’s accreditation.

The African Union is a representative body of 55 African nations whose majority object to Israel’s illegal occupation, unjust oppression of Palestinians and annexation of their land.

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