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Netanyahu to Visit Three Nations Never Before Toured by Sitting Israeli PM

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to become the first holder of his office to visit Australia, Singapore, and Kazakhstan during a series of trips over the next three months, The Jerusalem Post reported Sunday. He is also slated to visit Azerbaijan, which he toured briefly as prime minister in 1997.

“Israel’s international relations are spreading in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and many other places,” Netanyahu said in reference to the planned trips at the start of his weekly cabinet meeting. “We realize that this development flows from Israel’s technological and economic strength on one hand, and its security and intelligence capabilities on the other.”

Israel purchases most of its oil from Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan.

Netanyahu is also planning to attend a summit with West African nations in Togo next spring, an extension of Israel’s intensive diplomatic efforts with African countries this year. He convened with at least 15 leaders and representatives of African nations at the United Nations in New York this September, and visited Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, and Ethiopia this summer. The Republic of Guinea, a Muslim-majority African nation, restored diplomatic ties with Israel in July after a 49-year break.

Netanyahu’s trip to Singapore would reciprocate a visit by the island’s prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, to Israel in April 2016.

Over the past year, Israel has made significant diplomatic gains in Africa, Asia, and the Arab world. Ayoob Kara, Israel’s deputy minister of regional cooperation, told Tablet Magazine in August that Israel’s “relations with our [Arab] neighbors are the best they’ve ever been,” and that while ties are often kept quiet, “we are praised by ministers and parliament members from places like Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Morocco.”

In March, Netanyahu observed that “today we have diplomatic relations with 161 countries – more than at any time in our history. And by the way, there are not that many countries left. There are only about 200 countries in the world.”

Netanyahu’s assessment echoed one shared by Eran Lerman, Israel’s former deputy national security adviser, in February. “In most of the world, the situation has improved,” Lerman said. “In Europe it has deteriorated, but not to such a degree that I’d go pulling my hair out in despair. There’s a problem in northwest Europe, but that’s not the entire universe. In the Israeli media there’s a tendency to view London and the Scandinavian countries as the foundations of the world order, and to ignore such ‘trivial’ issues as our relations with the United States, the breakthrough with a little country called India, which has a population of over a billion, our relations in the eastern Mediterranean, relations with the Arab world, connections with China and Russia, and a number of other minor facts of this kind.”

[Photo: IsraeliPM / YouTube ]