The South African government's decision to recall its ambassador to Israel is premature and inappropriate, the Jewish leadership in the country said in a statement on Thursday.
The joint statement by the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, South African Zionist Federation and the Office of the Chief Rabbi came after Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Ebrahim Ebrahim, said that Ismail Coovadia would be recalled from Israel for consultations.
Ebrahim said that the recall was a form of protest, following Monday's clash between Israeli defence force members and a flotilla that intended to break the Gaza blockade with aid.
But Ebrahim added that Coovadia would return to Tel Aviv.
Nine people were killed during Monday's raid in international waters. South African radio reporter, Gadija Davids, was among the more than 600 people from 42 countries detained by Israel afterwards.
Davids was expected home soon from Turkey, where she was sent after her release from an Israeli prison. Coovadia was accompanying her.
"The South African Jewish leadership is saddened over the deaths and injuries incurred during the Gaza flotilla incident," the Jewish leadership said.
"Nevertheless, the South African government's decision to temporarily recall our Ambassador to Israel in response to the incident is premature and inappropriate."
The Jewish leaders said that the facts of the incident were not yet fully known.
"They will become so only after the investigation into its causes has completed its work and reported its findings to the international community," the organisations said.
"In this regard, the leadership expresses its profound disappointment at the decision, as it goes against the South African way of engaging in dialogue and not jumping to conclusions before all the facts are known."
The Jewish leadership said it regretted that South Africa was so far the only country, apart from Turkey, to have taken "so radical and disproportionate a step, despite not being directly involved in the matter".
The leadership said that it has requested a meeting with the South African government to obtain clarification concerning the rationale behind the recall.
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), applauded the recall. It also wanted South Africa to sever all diplomatic relations with Israel.
South Africa's Al Jama-ah political party also said that it was pleased by government's actions and believed that they gave effect to the position of former President Nelson Mandela that "South Africa will never be free until Palestinians are free".
The Israeli government said that it regretted South Africa's decision to recall Coovadia.
"We regret this measure," Israel's foreign affairs spokesperson Yigal Palmor said.
"But it is a sovereign decision of the South Africa government. We respect that.
"We would not have done the same and we would have understood the South African government if it had been placed in the same situation. We hope to have him back soon," Palmor said.
Israel has claimed that it acted in self-defence, citing footage of soldiers being hit with poles and one being thrown overboard after they had rappelled onto the boats.