PM Netanyahu and Kenyan President Kenyatta sign agreements

PM Netanyahu and Kenyan President Kenyatta sign agreements. (Ohad Zwigenberg/POOL)

Israel and Kenya are working to strengthen their decades-old ties as Israel hopes to create even more allies on the African continent.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta to Israel on Tuesday in the first state visit by a Kenyan president to the Jewish State in over two decades, affirming the close relations between the two countries.

Netanyahu noted that the two peoples share a remarkable relationship, a partnership that dates back over half a century.

“We have since developed our relationship in so many areas and it’s a growing relationship. We speak regularly on the phone. We try in many ways to improve our relationship and bring it to new heights in so many areas,” Netanyahu said.

He added that Israel and Kenya are fighting the same battle against Islamic terrorism.

“Both our peoples have suffered at the hand of these brutal terrorists. We have no illusions about them. They want to murder our people, and we know that this is a common battle that we share with you and we’re prepared to do a great deal more,” said Netanyahu.

“I have to say that more and more African countries recognizes what you recognize—that Israel is a unique partner against this extremism, that Israel is a unique partner in the way that we can work together to seize the opportunities of the future,” he added.

The two leaders signed a joint statement that will foster cooperation on water and agriculture and will establish a bilateral committee for that purpose. They also discussed future cooperation on cyber-technology, energy, and public health issues.

Netanyahu expressed a desire to continue working with Kenya and other African countries.

“Israel is coming back to Africa and Africa is coming back to Israel,” he said.

Kenyatta, in his remarks to the media, also underscored the significance of what he termed as an “historic visit.”

“The strong partnership between Kenya and Israel stems all the way back to our independence, actually prior to our independence,” he stated.

On the threat of Islamic terrorism, Netanyahu said both countries “live in challenging neighborhoods with similar security concerns and the cooperation between our two governments since the time of our independence has been formidable and we look forward that this particular trip will strengthen those ties even further.”

He concluded by expressing hope for the “further deepening of the partnership and relationship between not only Kenya and Israel but also the strengthening of the partnership between Kenya, I mean – Israel and Africa.”

Rivlin Kenyatta

President Reuven Rivlin with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. (Mark Neyman/GPO)

Earlier in the day, President Reuven hosted Kenyatta at his residence for an official welcome ceremony. The two held a working meeting during which they discussed the strengthening of bilateral ties between the two countries.

Rivlin spoke of the importance of the cooperation between the two nations, especially in the field of development. He noted, “Israel is proud of the cooperation between our peoples. Thanks to MASHAV we are working to educate people, develop agriculture, and protect the environment. It is my hope this cooperation will continue to grow and that the close ties between our people will become stronger. Your visit is an important step in building this friendship.”

Kenya has benefited from the Israeli government through the country’s Agency for International Development Cooperation (MASHAV), including projects in agriculture, health, water and sanitationeducation,disaster management and security.

Kenyatta thanked Rivlin for his warm welcome and said, “It is my sincere hope that this visit will cement the bonds that are already strong, and link our two countries. Let me assure you Mr. President that we in Kenya hold Israel as a dear and very special friend. This is a friendship not only born out of a long history of fraternal relations, but is also manifested in very real and concrete corporation in a number of important areas.”

Later Tuesday, the President and First Lady Rivlin hosted a state dinner at their residence in honor of the Kenyan President’s visit.

By: Max Gelber, United with Israel contributed to this report.