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FFP criticises ANC’s decision to downgrade SA embassy in Israel

At its national conference last week, the ruling party made the move in support of the Palestinian people.

The ANC's newly elected top six acknowledge their supporters at the party's national conference at Nasrec in Johannesburg on 18 December 2017. Picture: EWN

JOHANNESBURG - The Freedom Front Plus (FFP) says the African National Congress (ANC)'s decision to downgrade the South African embassy in Israel to a liaison office compromises its impartiality and does not promote peace.

At its national conference last week, the ruling party made the move in support of the Palestinian people.

This is also seen as opposition to US President Donald Trump's decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Groenewald says the ANC's decision blurs the lines between government and the party.

“The stance should be to see from an international perspective as a government and not as a political party and that stance should be to say that we leave the South Africa embassy as it is and they can rather get involved by negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.”

Meanwhile, Israel’s parliament ratified on Thursday a law barring police investigators from going public with their findings, in what opposition lawmakers saw as a bid to soften scrutiny of corruption probes against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The so-called Recommendations Bill, approved in the final reading by a vote of 59-to-54, prevents police from announcing whether they have found enough evidence for an indictment before prosecutors decide whether or not to press such charges.

Netanyahu is a suspect in two cases. In one, he is alleged to have meddled in the media industry. The other concerns gifts he received from wealthy businessmen. He denies any wrongdoing.

Opposition lawmakers have said that the bill, tabled by Netanyahu’s rightist Likud party, was designed to dampen public anger over the investigations, which has fueled weekly demonstrations in Tel Aviv and calls for the premier’s ouster.

Netanyahu defended the bill on 3 December as ”intended to prevent publication of police recommendations which would leave a cloud over innocent people, something that happens every day”. In 60% of cases where police recommend criminal charges, prosecutors decided not to indict, Netanyahu noted.

But the prime minister also called for the bill to be amended so it did not apply to the criminal investigations against him.

The final draft stipulated that the law would not be in effect regarding investigations that predate its ratification.

That has done little to mollify the opposition.

“This law came about only because of the investigations against Netanyahu,” Avi Gabbay, head of the center-left Zionist Union party, told Israel’s Army Radio.

“We don’t know what investigations might be conducted in the future (against him).”

Israeli media had reported that police could go public with recommendations to indict Netanyahu as soon as early January, and a 23 December TV poll found that 60% to 63% of the public would want him to resign over such recommendations.

Additional information by Reuters.

(Edited by Leeto M Khoza)

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