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Netanyahu to Attend West Africa Summit as Israeli Outreach to Continent Expands

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to attend a summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Nigeria later this year, The Jerusalem Post reported Thursday.

The prime minister met Thursday in his office with ECOWAS’ president, Marcel Alain de Souza, where the two signed a joint declaration of intent for greater cooperation. Israeli Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold said that the meeting “brings the Prime Minister’s [Africa] initiative, that started with east African countries like Kenya and Ethiopia, to the western part of the continent.” Both parties “positively viewed the participation of the prime minister of the State of Israel in the ECOWAS summit in the near future,” they said in the declaration. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who also met with de Souza, added that Israel and African nations “have excellent cooperation and we welcome the opportunity for Israel to contribute from its knowledge and abilities in the field of health, water, and agriculture – a sign of the friendship between us.”

In related developments, an African Christian delegation visited Jerusalem on Wednesday to give an award to Natan Sharansky, chairman of the Jewish Agency. “We believe that Africa’s future depends on our connection to Israel. … We have a great deal to learn from the Israeli people and we believe that we have a great deal to offer in return,” said Nigerian pastor Olusegun Olanipekun. South African pastor Linda Godobo, the founder of the Vuka Africa Foundation, explained to Sharansky that she and her foundation had organized “the largest rally in the world to support Israel during the summer conflict with Hamas in 2014,” when 12,000 people demonstrated in Johannesburg in support of Israel.

These two events are the latest examples of Israel’s successful diplomatic outreach to Africa. Netanyahu visited Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, and Ethiopia earlier this month. Weeks later, the Republic of Guinea, a Muslim-majority African nation, restored diplomatic ties with Israel after a 49-year break. Netanyahu has made it a priority to strengthen Israel’s commercial, diplomatic, and security relations with African countries. Israel has a long history of sharing its expertise with African countries. Jerusalem hopes that increased ties with African nations will lead to a shift in their voting trends at the UN and other global fora, thus improving Israel’s diplomatic standing and reversing what Netanyahu called “the automatic majority against Israel.”

This infographic covers Israel’s recent diplomatic inroads in Africa:

[ Photo: Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs ]