Israel's seat of power - the Knesset. (Sean Pavone/Shutterstock) (Sean Pavone/Shutterstock)
Knesset

The Knesset will host a first-of-its-kind conference attended by six African heads of parliament.

The Knesset, Israel’s parliament, will host six African heads of parliament who are in Israel to attend a conference on a broad array of issues.

Events at the Knesset on this scale are quite out of the ordinary, and official visits by more than two heads of parliament at the same time are extremely rare.

The African representatives hail from Ghana, Rwanda, Seychelles, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda.
The six heads of parliament accepted the invitation extended by Speaker of the Knesset Yuli-Yoel Edelstein, and will attend the parliamentary seminar at the Knesset that begins on Tuesday, which will include discussions of various subjects with Knesset Members from most of the parliamentary groups.

In addition, Donatille Mukabalisa, the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies of Rwanda, one of the few parliaments with a female majority, will address a panel discussion on women’s empowerment and gender equality, along with the Chair of the Subcommittee on Combating Trafficking in Women and Prostitution, MK Aliza Lavie.

The Chair of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, MK Avi Dichter, will discuss shared challenges in combating terrorism, and MK Ze’ev Binyamin Begin will explain Israel’s anti-terrorism legislation and its significance.

Knesset Director General Albert Sakharovich will discuss making the Knesset accessible to people with disabilities, and he will also speak about the sustainability project at the Knesset.
On Wednesday, the guests will visit a cyber firm and meet with MASHAV—Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation to discuss advances in agriculture. MASHAV has several projects operating in Africa.

On the third and final day, the guests will tour Jerusalem: the Western Wall, the Western Wall Tunnels, the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, the City of David, the Via Dolorosa, and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

They are also scheduled to meet with President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Over the past three years, the Knesset has greatly expanded its foreign affairs work under the directive of Speaker Edelstein, and Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) have been signed with no fewer than 20 parliaments, including Rwanda, Uganda, Côte D`Ivoire, Ethiopia, and Kenya.

One  of the Largest and Most Significant Knesset Conferences Ever

“The Knesset strives to strengthen its ties with as many parliaments as possible, forge partnerships in various fields, and increase Israel’s participation in various inter-parliamentary organizations,” a statement by the Knesset said.

Recently, the Knesset established the International Affairs Division, which is responsible for these activities, and this Seminar for Heads of Parliament is the crowning achievement of its efforts to date.

Edelstein expressed excitement ahead of “one of the largest and most significant conferences ever held at the Knesset,” adding that “the cooperation with countries in the African continent is of the highest importance from a diplomatic and economic standpoint, and all sides benefit from it. I am glad that countries from all over Africa chose to take part in this unique professional conference, which is aimed at strengthening the parliamentary aspect of Israel’s cooperation with these countries.”

Netanyahu has made improving relations with African nations a priority.

In his address to AIPAC last March, Netanyahu observed that Israel has “diplomatic relations with 161 countries, more than at any time in our history.”

Last July, he made a historic trip to East Africa, where he visited Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia. Weeks later, the Republic of Guinea, a Muslim-majority African nation, restored diplomatic ties with Israel after a 49-year break.

In August, Senegal and Guinea, two Muslim-majority West African nations, sent their first-ever full-time ambassadors to Israel.

Netanyahu returned from Kenya last week, where he held a series of bilateral meetings with attending heads of African states.

Israel has a long history of sharing its expertise with African countries, and Jerusalem hopes that stronger ties will lead to a shift in voting trends at the UN and other global forums, thus reversing what Netanyahu has labeled the “automatic majority against Israel.”

By: United with Israel Staff

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