Diplomacy

WATCH: Netanyahu Meets with 15 African Heads of State, Ambassadors

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with more than 15 African heads of state and representatives at the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday.

Netanyahu told the leaders that he thought Israel could be an “amazing” partner for their nations. He specifically pointed to Israeli technology, which he said could improve their countries’ medical, communications, agricultural, and education systems.

In all his years in public service, “I never had a foreign trip as stirring, as moving as the one I had to Africa” in July, Netanyahu said. “It was a personal odyssey as my brother died at the rescue at Entebbe. That was a very moving ceremony organized by the president of Uganda. But I also had the opportunity there, beyond the personal, to meet with the leaders from seven African countries, I visited four of them. One of them, President Kagame [of Rwanda], gave us, as did the others, a tremendous reception.”

He noted that he will visit West Africa later this year, having gone to the eastern end of the continent a few months ago. “But I don’t intent to limit myself to East Africa or West Africa, Israel is looking at all of Africa,” he added. “And I hope that all of Africa looks at Israel.”

Following the meeting, Netanyahu hosted the African leaders and representatives to a showcase called “Israeli Technology and Innovation for Africa.” Israeli companies offered innovative products and services to “over 15 presidents, prime ministers and ministers from Africa and developing countries, and to dozens of ambassadors, senior UN officials and private sector representatives from around the world,” his office said in a statement.

The meeting was a culmination of Israel’s growing African diplomatic outreach this week. Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold met on Wednesday with South African foreign minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, who said three years ago that her nation would not deal with Israel. “We consider the very fact that this meeting was held an extraordinary achievement,” a senior Foreign Ministry official told the Times of Israel.

Netanyahu also met on Wednesday with Mackey Sall, the president of the Muslim-majority country of Senegal. The two leaders exchanged invitations to visit each other’s countries.

Weeks after Netanyahu’s visit to Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, and Ethiopia in July, the Republic of Guinea, which is also largely Muslim, 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: Kobi Gideon / GPO ]