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An examination of South Africa’s foreign policy towards Israel and Palestine after 1994, with a specific focus on the conflict between these two respective territories/countries.

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The Israel-Palestine Conflict, which fully broke out in 1948 after the United Nations officially recognized the State of Israel, has been dragging on for decades. Incidentally, South Africa also introduced the apartheid policy in 1948. Henceforth, an unholy relationship between these two pariah states began in earnest. Both Israel and apartheid South Africa were accused of dispossessing and ill-treating the indigenous people of their land. Moreover, these states saw themselves as exporters of Western values into the two very distinct worlds and cultures they found themselves in. However, the demise of apartheid in 1994 saw a change of tune from the incoming administration, as it sided with the marginalised Palestinians. The majority Black government in a majority Christian country, South Africa, chose to side with the Palestinians despite strong Biblical evidence supporting Israel’s claims to the Palestinian territory. All this was owing to the fact that South Africa’s liberation movement, the African National Congress [ANC], had fought alongside and enjoyed the support of its Palestinian equal, the Palestinian Liberation Organisation [PLO]. The study adopted the qualitative paradigm. This decision was predicated on the fact that the study was mostly desk-top based. Primary data were collected by administering questionnaires via email to purposively selected informants. Secondary data were generated through consulting books, journal articles, newspapers and internet resources. Realism, Institutionalism and Human Rights theories were chosen to guide the study. These three theories assisted in deciphering how states deal with one another, how institutions can mediate or escalate tensions between states, and how human rights are significant in the formulation of foreign policies. The study reveals that although, at face value, South Africa seems to be favouring the Palestinian State, its official foreign policy towards both Israel and Palestine is even-handed. This is despite vocal voices from within some members of the cabinet and leaders of the tripartite alliance supporting Palestine and condemning Israeli atrocities in that territory. Furthermore, the study reveals that religious fundamentalism and intolerance have contributed in the escalation of the Israel-Palestine conflict. South Africa as a multicultural society with diverse religions could serve as a catalyst in providing solutions to this struggle. That is if the role of religion in the encounter is not relegated to the periphery.


Doctor of Philosophy in International Relations. KwaZulu-Natal. Durban, 2016.