Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has expressed the desire for Israel to become a member of the African Union, in a renewed bid to increase cooperation with the continent, according to Kenyan newspaper Daily Nation.
On a trip to several African nations, Netanyahu has repeatedly emphasised the importance of increased ties between Israel and African governments. During a speech in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, with 11 other heads of state present, Netanyahu pledged to deepen trade, security and agricultural relations with neighbouring countries.
“This is my third visit to Africa and second to Kenya, we believe in the future of Africa, we love Africa and I would like very much not only to cooperate on an individual basis with each of your countries but also with the African Union.”
“I hope that we all find a way to have Israel become an observer status in the African Union because we can help, we cannot only observe but we can help build together a better future for Africa,” he added.
Netanyahu spoke of Israel’s desire to see Africa progress and achieve its development goals, promising his government’s assistance in providing the necessary technology. He also referenced the need for cooperation in tackling terrorism.
“If we work together we will defeat the barbarians. Our people deserve better lives and we can provide that for them,” said the Israeli PM.
This is the prime minister’s third trip to Africa in 18 months, as Israel continues its efforts to garner support outside of its traditional Western allies and trade partners. Netanyahu also seeks to use the support of the continent to debunk the anti-Israel traditional majority in international organisations such as the United Nations.
Netanyahu has previously announced on more than one occasion since last year, and even during his visit to Africa, that he is trying to establish a closer relationship with the continent to cut with the instinctive sympathy for Palestine in international institutions in which Palestinians are supported.
But the campaign has been met with some resistance and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has called on the African leaders to consider any development in the Africa’s relations with Israel only in as much as it shows commitment to end its occupation of Palestine.
In September, Togo cancelled the Israel-Africa summit due to take place in the country in October, allegedly due to internal conflict in the country. However the decision to postpone the conference indefinitely, which would have seen delegations from 54 African countries gather to meet the Israeli delegation, was considered a huge blow to Israel.
Israel has diplomatic relations with 40 out of 48 countries in southern Africa.
Abbas had asked the President of Togo during the African summit in Addis Ababa to reconsider the decision to hold a summit with Israel. This was the first time that the Palestinian president asks to meet the President of Togo who ascended to power in 2005.