by: Ilse Posselt
Thursday, 09 February 2017 | In July 2016, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu became the first sitting Israeli prime minister to visit sub-Saharan Africa since 1987, rubbing shoulders with leaders and the business elite in Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia. According to Netanyahu, the step-up in Israeli-African relations was anything but a one-time focus. Africa, the prime minister said yesterday, occupies a “very high place” on Israel’s foreign policy concerns.
“Africa is as high as it has ever been in the pyramid of our foreign policy interests,” Netanyahu told a gathering of the Jewish state’s diplomatic envoys to the continent held in Jerusalem over the past week. Israel currently has 11 embassies across Africa as well as a number of non-resident ambassadors, The Jerusalem Post reports.
Israel’s top goal in Africa, Netanyahu told the diplomats, is to put a stop to the “automatic” votes against the Jewish state by African representatives at the United Nations (UN). “The first interest is to dramatically change the situation regarding African votes at the UN and other international bodies from opposition to support,” Netanyahu explained.
“Our goal is to change their voting patterns given that the automatic majority against Israel at the UN is composed — first and foremost — of Arab countries. There are 54 countries [in Africa],” the prime minister expounded on his strategy to erode the automatic majority towards the Palestinian side at the UN. “If you change the voting pattern of a majority of them, you at once bring them from one side to the other. We want to erode the opposition and change it to support.”
“The day is not far off when we will have a majority there [at the UN],” Netanyahu vowed. “This sounds delusional? It is not delusional at all,” he assured.
Improving Israel-African relations has been one of Netanyahu’s top foreign priorities over the past year. Apart from the visit last summer to the four East African nations, the prime minister has also met with a number of his African counterparts at the UN last year. Then, in December 2016, Israel invited a number of African countries to attend a three-day conference on agriculture in the Jewish state. Moreover, Togo asked Israel to attend a key African summit taking place later this year.
Historically, the relationship between the Jewish state and the nations of Africa has been a tumultuous one. Although Israel played a prominent part in assisting newly independent African countries to find their feet during the 1960s, the Israeli-Arab conflict resulted in a breakdown in ties. After the 1967 and 1973 wars between Israel and its neighbors, Egypt coerced a number of sub-Saharan African states into shunning Israel.
Ties between the Jewish state and a number of African countries have, however, warmed significantly over the past few years, given the common interest of combating the onslaught of radical Islam. Moreover, various drought-stricken African states have also shown their keen interest in Israeli water and agricultural technology.
In June 2016, the Israeli cabinet approved a NIS 50 million (USD 13.3 million) plan aimed at strengthening economic ties and cooperation between the Jewish state and a number of African countries. “The African continent constitutes vast potential for Israel in very many areas,” Netanyahu said at the time. “Many countries are seeking to open their gates to Israel and we will realize this desire for their benefit and for the benefit of the State of Israel.”
Posted on February 9, 2017
Source: (Bridges for Peace, 09 February 2017)
Photo Credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO
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