Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and MK Shimon Solomon (Yesh Atid) have announced a new Knesset Lobby for Strengthening Relations Between Israel and African Countries, ahead of Liberman’s planned visit to five African countries next month.
Liberman said that Israel, as an economically strong state and member of the OECD, must invest in foreign aid. He added that investing in Africa will bring economic and political benefit to Israel.
“Africa is an important objective of Israel’s foreign policy, and we will strive to have Israel accepted during the coming year as an observer in the African Union,” Liberman told the group.
According to a release from Liberman’s office, economic growth in Africa last year was around 6 percent, compared to zero percent in Europe. Over the past year, high level visitors to Africa included US President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and the president, vice president, premier and vice premier of China. All this is indicative of the importance of Africa in the changing international arena.
Broadening Israel’s Horizons
Since assuming control of the foreign ministry five years ago, Liberman has made broadening Israel’s diplomatic relationships a priority. Early in his first term he toured South America, a region that Israel has traditionally failed to invest diplomatic resources. And his 2009 visit to Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, and Ghana was there first visit to Africa by an Israeli foreign minister since Golda Meir in 1959.
“Israel’s relationship with the United States is important, but for too many years we have placed all our foreign policy eggs in the American basket,” a senior aide to Liberman told this reporter at that time. “But the world is developing quickly: Africa, Asia, South America – all these regions are growing fast, in terms of economic progress and political influence. We have much to offer these regions, in terms of technology and economic opportunity, and we have much to gain from them in return. Developing these ties is very much a win-win situation for everyone.
Today, Africa is one of the most important of these destinations. Just 10 of Israel’s 106 diplomatic missions are located in Africa, down from 27 in the 1970’s. In the decades since the Yom Kippur War, African countries have voted as a bloc on the international stage in favor of the Arab world against Israel, but there are signs that that trend could change, given the proper diplomatic support: In December, al-Monitor.com reported that in 2012Israel’s ambassador to Senegal, Eli Ben Tura, hosted 14 imams for an Iftar dinner (Ramadan break the fast meal) at his residence. And last November, a delegation of moslem religious leaders from Senegal visited Israel in a first-of-its-kind interreligious cooperation project.
In addition, three years ago Israel’s ambassador to Ghana, Sharon Bar-Li, engaged in an interreligious dialogue with local Muslim leaders.
Today, Foreign Minister Liberman noted that he sees investment in Africa as important on both the humanitarian and socio-political planes. There are many areas in which Israel can provide assistance and training: in agriculture, water management, medicine, combatting terror, and more. Israel cooperates with various countries, among them the United States, Canada, and Italy, in various investment projects in Africa. The most important of these is the joint Israeli-German Africa Initiative established at the last Israel-Germany government consultations in February 2014, a program of development cooperation in Burkina Faso, Cameroon and Burundi, with an investment of 50 million Euro.
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