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Netanyahu to Meet with African Leaders at UN in Latest Bid to Expand Ties

Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon said that Jerusalem’s recent diplomatic gains with African nations may get another boost in September at the UN General Assembly, where Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with a number of African leaders, The Jerusalem Post reported on Tuesday.

Danon is currently leading a dozen UN ambassadors on a diplomatic tour of Israel. The envoys hail from a variety of nations, including three African ones: Equatorial Guinea, Liberia, and Tanzania.

Danon said that Israel’s diplomatic outreach to Africa is reflected in his own experiences at the UN, where he takes part in many joint programs with African colleagues. He added that such initiatives can advance Israel’s interests by improving personal relationships, which can have a policy impact. Danon noted that not all UN ambassadors are instructed to vote a certain way by their government, so “sometimes the ambassadors of small countries decide on their own. There are some who were once foreign ministers, who have the status of being able to determine policy.”

Danon explained that the aim of his current trip to Israel with his UN colleagues — which also includes ambassadors from Panama, the Marshall Islands, Moldova, Tanzania, Serbia, Palau, Uruguay, Thailand, and Bosnia and Herzegovina — is to broaden their understanding of Israel and the issues it faces. “We want them to see what the security challenges are, so when these issues come to the UN they will understand them,” he added. While Danon doesn’t expect his efforts to necessarily pay off immediately in terms of UN votes, he called diplomacy “a marathon, not a knockout punch.”

He also indicated that the trip exposes the diplomats to “the other side of Israel,” including its technology and agriculture. “We are happy to share that information with other countries,” he said.

Netanyahu’s planned meeting with African leaders at the General Assembly in New York is the latest example of the diplomatic inroads Israel has been paving in recent months on the African continent.

Last week, the Post reported that Netanyahu will attend a summit of the Economic Community of West African States in Nigeria later this year.

Netanyahu visited Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, and Ethiopia on a historic tour of East Africa in July. 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 on the continent, and 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.”

In a bid to counter Israeli diplomatic successes in Africa, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas last month met with and embraced Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. The two “discussed developing a strategy for the African continent and coordinating to restrain Israeli attempts to make a breakthrough in Africa,” the PA’s foreign minister told reporters in Khartoum.

[Photo: Yonatan Sindel / Flash90 ]