Israel and South Africa are heading toward a severing of diplomatic ties. Although the South African government had been critical of Israel before the war, it has since come out firmly on the side of Hamas and indicated it was considering recalling the charge d'affairs at the embassy in Tel Aviv, back to Pretoria and ending the relations between the two countries.
Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor who spoke with Hamas leaders at the start of the war blamed the massacre on Israel and said that Hamas killed 1,400 soldiers and settlers on October 7. She also called for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court, for war crimes.
In 2018, the South African government recalled its envoy to Israel and has since not had a diplomat assigned to the post, in protest of Israeli strikes on Gaza and said the diplomatic relations with Israel were under review.
The Pretoria government also maintains good relations with Iran and was instrumental in calls to include Iran along with six other nations, in the BRICS economic bloc, which includes Brazil, Russia, China, and India as well as South Africa. Pandor visited Tehran in October.
Pandor leads a radical wing of the ANC in opposition to President Cyril Ramphosa. The country has a Muslim population numbering between five and seven million and has advanced the ANC policy of supporting national liberation groups such as the Palestinians and countries such as Cuba, Venezuela and Iran.
But the government also has a capitalist economy that depends greatly on cooperation with the West and has therefore avoided being identified with countries seen as the "axis of evil," wishing to continue receiving economic benefits from the United States that allow it to export goods under favorable conditions.
The ties to Hamas have been good for many years and in 2015, a delegation of the terror group visited the African nation at the invitation of then-president Jacob Zuma, raising anger in both Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Hamas also has a political office in Cape Town, although the Pretoria government denies its existence.
After protest by the local Jewish community, President Ramphosa condemned "the brutal killing of civilians by Hamas," but also expressed support for the "oppressed people in Palestine."
The Foreign Ministry called for the release of hostages held in Gaza but called the victims of the October 7 massacre "soldiers and settlers." The Jewish community slammed the government and called for Hamas to be condemned.
Israel's ambassador to South Africa Eliav Belotsercovsky was summoned to the Foreign Ministry to explain comments he made that Pretoria described as disparaging to the government. The ministry said it was considering the expulsion of the Ambassador although some officials were concerned that such a move would anger the U.S. and would bring an end to South African participation in the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) which could result in the loss of jobs for tens of thousands of South Africans employed by U.S. owned companies, and would end American investments.
Parliamentary opposition parties holding 120 out of the 460 parliamentary seats, have expressed support for Israel.