Opposition party COPE has lambasted the ANC's resolution to downgrade South Africa's embassy in Israel to a liaison office, calling the decision myopic.
"We do not believe that this position will contribute toward resolving the conflict between the two peoples and bringing to an end unnecessary loss of innocent lives in the area," said the party in a statement.
The announcement to downgrade the embassy immediately and unconditionally was made on the last day of ANC's 54th elective conference on Wednesday.
COPE said the young people of both Palestine and Israel deserve to enjoy their religious and human rights and endorsed the idea of a two-state approach toward attaining peace between the two Middle East communities.
The breakaway party says the resolution will have many unintended results, including limiting South Africa's role of engagement and negotiation between the two parties.
COPE said the decision would also have adverse effects on South Africans:
We hope that the ANC will not conflate party interests with those of the country and put the interests of the country first. The partisan approach toward the Israel and Palestine conflict will render South Africa's role in seeking a solution irrelevant.
'Insult to 80% of electoral base'
The Africa-Israel Chamber of Commerce (AICC) said that the downgrade threatens existing trade relations worth billions between South Africa and Israel.
It said that it hoped the ANC would rethink this position and backtrack from implementing the downgrade.
The AICC, along with the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, questioned the wisdom of the resolution, saying it would put South African businesses on the back foot compared with other African countries.
The chamber of commerce said the ruling party was fraternising with "terrorist" organisations such as Hamas.
"One would expect that the oldest political organisation on the African continent would be more discerning and more open-minded, that the ANC does not insult 80% of its electoral base (the Christian community) with such a policy, that ANC play the role of a referee in the Middle East conflict and not take side in the crisis," read a statement from AICC.
Meanwhile, South African Friends of Israel (SAFI) has started a petition against the ANC resolution online which, according to co-founder Mark Hyman, already has over 5 000 signatures and continues to grow.
SAFI called the downgrade an attempt to damage and alienate the "unbreakable bond between South Africans of the Jewish and Christian faith with Israel. Any such attempt will fail."
"For South African citizens this has the real possibility of leading to a loss of a visa-free status in travel to Israel, which currently exists. Such an unfortunate decision would then necessitate that South African citizens travel to the nearest Israeli embassy in Kenya to apply for a visa to enter Israel," read a statement.