PM Netanyahu and African leaders at ECOWAS. (Kobi Gideon/GPO) (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
PM Netanyahu & ECOWAS heads of state

Netanyahu met with several African leaders, the latest stage in Israel’s efforts to promote diplomatic relations with Africa. 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday met with several African leaders on the sidelines of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) conference in Monrovia, Liberia, where he delivered the keynote address.

One of those leaders is Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. Mali is an Islamic country that does not have diplomatic ties with Israel, however, Netanyahu and Keita have agreed to improve their relationship.

The Israeli leader also conversed with Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo, Togo President Faure Essozimna Gnassingbe, Guinea President Alpha Conde, Cape Verde President Jorge Carlos Fonseca and Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara.

In another diplomatic development, Netanyahu met with Senegal President Macky Sal. The two leaders announced an end the six-month long diplomatic crisis between their countries.

Israel will immediately return its ambassador to Senegal and Senegal will support Israel’s candidacy as an observer to the African Union (AU). The two countries will also resume joint projects that were suspended in the wake of UNSC Resolution 2334, which Senegal had sponsored along with New Zealand.

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in December passed Resolution 2334, which condemned Israeli “settlements” – i.e. Israeli communities in eastern Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria – as an obstacle to a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Obama administration allowed the anti-Israel resolution to pass by abstaining.

Netanyahu and Sall also agreed on cooperation in security and agriculture. Netanyahu invited the Senegalese Foreign Minister to resume his visit to Israel, which had been suspended as a result of the crisis.

‘I Believe in Africa’

Netanyahu said it was a dream-come-true to address the ECOWAS conference.

After condemning the latest Islamic terror attacks around the globe, he stressed that Israel’s goal in Africa “is not merely to join forces to fight the bad, but to work together to advance the good, and in this spirit, I come here as an expression of a simple truth: Israel is coming back to Africa, and Africa is coming back to Israel.”

“I believe in Africa, I believe in its potential – present and future,” Netanyahu declared. “It is a continent on the rise. Its people are diverse and talented.”

“I have made strengthening our relations one of our top priorities – national and international priorities of the State of Israel. It’s the reason I became the first Israeli prime minister to visit Africa in decades. Well, one thing I can assure you – it won’t be decades until an Israeli leader visits Africa again. It won’t be five years. It’ll be a few months,” he announced.

Netanyahu invoked the similar histories shared by Israel and Africa, urging the highest level of cooperation between the Jewish state and Africa.

“The founding fathers of ECOWAS spoke of creating this organization to promote love and respect for one another. Israel is a nation which loves and respects all. Israel seeks peace with all its neighbors and has done so from its first days. In Israel, Jews, Christians and Muslims live side by side as equal citizens. This is the real Israel. Diversity in Israel isn’t tolerated; it’s celebrated. I hope you see in Israel what Israel sees in the countries of Africa – a vibrant nation that seeks cooperation for the benefit of all,” Netanyahu said.

Israeli Inroads in Africa

Israel has helped Africa technologically in a number of sectors, particularly in agriculture by introducing techniques such as drip irrigation, which is especially useful in arid climates.

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 an 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.

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: Max Gelber, United with Israel

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