Daily Briefing Vol # 4517 -ISRAEL – AFRICA RELATIONS: SETTING A POSITIVE NEW TONE

A History of Africa-Israel Relations: Tania Kraemer, DW, April 18, 2019 — In the late 1950s, Israel was a young emerging state at the same time that several African countries were becoming independent from their colonial rulers.
The Open Secret of Israeli-Moroccan Business Is Growing: Sebastian Shehadi, Middle East Eye, Nov. 5, 2018 — “Secret” Israeli-Moroccan business is increasingly visible, despite the North African country sharing no official relations with Israel and growing calls in Morocco against “economic normalisation”.
Israel’s Ex-Envoy in West Africa Discusses Increasing Diplomatic Relations: Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 1, 2018 — In the last days of the Obama administration, Egypt sponsored UN Security Council Resolution 2334, condemning Israel for the “construction and expansion of settlements.”
New Life in Israel-Africa Ties at the UN: Melanie Kent, AJC, June 16, 2018 — June 13, 2018 was a roller coaster of a day for those seated in the United Nations General Assembly Hall in New York. An emergency special session had been called in response to the recent violence at the Gaza border, one of the largest escalations since 2014.

ON TOPIC LINKS:

Map Shown by PM shows Israel Having ‘Potential’ Relations with Mali, Niger: Raphael Arens, Times of Israel, Feb. 20, 2019 — On Monday evening, Netanyahu addressed the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations’ annual Israel mission in a Jerusalem hotel. During his 30-minute speech, he talked participants through a slide show about Israeli achievements in various fields, including diplomacy.
Israel On Its Way to Making Breakthroughs in Relations with African Nations: Israel Kasnett, Jewish Journal, Dec. 10, 2019 — Chadian President Idriss Déby’s historic visit to Israel last month did not occur in a bubble.
The Positive History of Israeli-African Relations: Benji Shulman, The Algemeiner, June 6, 2018 — Just last month Israel scored another big diplomatic win in Africa, when Israeli President Reuven Rivlin successfully toured Ethiopia.
Somalia: Israel and Somaliland – Long-Lost Brothers?: Dalsan Radio Mogadishu, Nov. 22, 2018 — Israel faces many adversaries that don’t recognize it or its right to self-determination; Somaliland is also unrecognized as a state by most countries.

A HISTORY OF AFRICA-ISRAEL RELATIONS
Tania Kraemer
DW, April 18, 2019

In the late 1950s, Israel was a young emerging state at the same time that several African countries were becoming independent from their colonial rulers. “From an Israeli perspective, there was something really exciting in forging links with new countries which had to engage in the process of state-building and nation-building,” says Naomi Chazan, an expert in African-Israeli relations in Jerusalem.

At that time, Israel’s foreign minister Golda Meir, who later became Israel’s prime minister, set about promoting a diplomatic initiative with newly established African states. “It was a very familiar sentiment to Israelis at that time. Israel could sense and feel the challenges in Africa and identify with them very closely,” says Chazan.

In 1957, Israel recognized Ghana’s independence. In 1958, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation (MASHAV) was established to support the emerging independent African states. In 1963, it established its first embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. “Israel was a young nation in a hostile neighborhood, looking for more friendly neighborhoods around the world, and Africa was one of them,” says Gil Haskel, deputy director of MASHAV. From then on, Israel sent aid workers, military advisers and its know-how to African states.

The honeymoon period between Israel and African countries only lasted until the late 60’s. In 1967, Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza-Strip and the Golan Heights after the Six Day War reset its relations with Africa, as Israel began to be perceived as a colonizing state.

After the Israeli-Arab war in 1973, many sub-Saharan countries broke off diplomatic ties and shifted to a more pro-Arab alliance. The African Union granted Palestinians non-member observer status at AU summits but did not extend this to Israel. “The assumption that good bilateral relations will translate into support for current Israeli policies ignores the over 50 years of [self-determination for] African independence,” says Naomi Chazan. “There is one thing on the continent, and that is the right to self-determination.”

But during 1970s, when most African nations renounced their diplomatic ties with Israel, development programs continued — albeit on a smaller scale. And military and intelligence cooperation continued with some of Africa’s autocratic regimes. Although it had previously condemned the regime, Israel also strengthened its ties with the Apartheid regime in South Africa, which still hampers its relationship with that country.

Complex relations

African-Israeli relations have weathered ups and downs, as well as periods of diplomatic disinterest. But in recent years, Israel has renewed its interest in the continent: In 2009 then foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman visited Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda. Israel’s current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has visited several African countries, mainly in east Africa. “Israel is coming back to Africa, and Africa is returning to Israel,” Mr. Netanyahu said in 2016, declaring his new diplomatic initiative with African nations as one of his top priorities.

“The reason why Africa is gaining so much importance in our foreign policy is its growing economic and political importance,” says Yoram Elron, deputy director general and head of the Africa division at Israel’s foreign ministry. “The other component is the instability of northern African countries that are of concern to us.”… [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

THE OPEN SECRET OF ISRAELI-MOROCCAN
BUSINESS IS GROWING
Sebastian Shehadi
Middle East Eye, Nov. 5, 2018

“Secret” Israeli-Moroccan business is increasingly visible, despite the North African country sharing no official relations with Israel and growing calls in Morocco against “economic normalisation”. Many Moroccan and Israeli companies are resorting to increasingly complex commercial channels

Recent statistical discrepancies are a good start. Although Morocco’s official trade data has never made mention of Israel whatsoever, Israeli records shows $37m worth of commerce with Morocco in 2017, according to data released by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) this year. This means that, out of Israel’s 22 African trading partners, Morocco is among the four top nations from which it imports, and ninth in terms of exports, according to CBS. However, with $149m worth of trade between 2014 and 2017, this partnership is not new.

More unusual is Israel’s first overt foreign investment into the Arab world, with Israeli agricultural technology giant Netafim setting up a $2.9m subsidiary in Morocco last year, thereby creating 17 jobs, according to fDi Markets, a Financial Times data service that has monitored cross border greenfield investment worldwide since 2003. Greenfield investment is when a company builds its operations in a foreign country from the ground up.

This development may fit into broader regional trends. Arab-Israeli relations are improving, for one, due to a growing alliance against Iran. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent visit to Oman is a good example of these warming relations.

Long-standing ties

Netafim’s investment is the most visible example of the longstanding and “clandestine” economic ties between Israel and Morocco, two countries that have shared historically warm ties compared to other Arab-Israeli relations.

However, public opposition in Morocco against normalisation with Israel keeps these ties under wraps. For example, in 2016, government ministers denied any trade or investment links with Israel. Mohamed Abbou, then the head of foreign trade at the Ministry of Industry, Trade, Investment and the Digital Economy, told parliament: “Morocco has no commercial relations with this entity [Israel] . . . and is keen to fight the entry of all Israeli goods to Morocco. The government has never granted any license for anyone to import dates or any other Israeli products.”

This is despite the fact that Israel’s Netafim has operated in Morocco since at least 1994 through an affiliate, Regafim. Today, under its own name, its Moroccan Facebook page currently has more than 26,000 likes. Founded on an Israeli kibbutz in 1965, Netafim is the global leader in drip-irrigation systems, a technology that it pioneered. According to its website, it has 4,300 employees and provides equipment and services to customers in more than 110 countries….[To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

ISRAEL’S EX-ENVOY IN WEST AFRICA
DISCUSSES INCREASING DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS
Seth J. Frantzman
Jerusalem Post, Dec. 1, 2018

In the last days of the Obama administration, Egypt sponsored UN Security Council Resolution 2334, condemning Israel for the “construction and expansion of settlements.” Under pressure from the incoming Trump administration, the Egyptians withdrew the resolution on a cold Thursday night. It was December 22, just days remained until Trump would be in office and Israel hoped the resolution wouldn’t be passed.

At Israel’s embassy in Dakar, the capital of Senegal, ambassador Paul Hirschson had packed up and gone home for the night. He recalls how “literally hours before voting, the Egyptians withdrew the proposal.” The resolution was important for Senegal because the country was one of the non-permanent members of the UN Security Council. It also chairs the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. Hirschson understood that Senegal would vote for the resolution but when he went home to the modest ambassador’s residence on Thursday night, things seemed to be moving in the right direction. “It’s important to note Senegal wasn’t on its own, they had indicated they wanted to upgrade the relationship [with Israel]. And this isn’t how friends behave.”

Senegal’s President Macky Sall had just returned from a historic visit to Paris. The Jewish state had made it clear it didn’t want the Senegalese to sponsor the resolution, although Jerusalem fully understood they would vote for it. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was livid and sought to respond harshly to Dakar. Soon Hirschson was on a plane home, recalled for “consultations.” He informed the Senegalese that Israel was canceling a trip by Senegal’s foreign minister scheduled for January 2017. Israel also suspended activity by Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation (MASHAV).

If in the past Israel has accepted that countries it has relations with would sponsor resolutions condemning it at the UN, December 2016 was a new day. In January, Trump would be in office. Now the world would see, Israel takes these things seriously.

I’d been in Senegal in March 2016, hosted by Hirschson to see the incredible work Israel was doing in West Africa. It was a whirlwind tour. We met a former prime minister, a former presidential candidate and the minister of agriculture, and toured Dakar. The city is one of Africa’s great cultural and economic hubs. Reaching out into the Atlantic Ocean and shaped like an anvil, it is a link with the West and hosts security cooperation operations designed to keep West Africa safe from the threat of terrorism in neighboring countries. It is also home to a unique MASHAV-supported project helping Senegalese learn drip irrigation. Before I left, we visited agricultural projects Israel was supporting, small farms east of Dakar in the plains of Senegal, nestled beneath the giant baobab trees. Two years later, I wanted to see what Hirschson had learned in West Africa and how Israel’s relations were proceeding.

Senegal is a Muslim-majority country, but its unique form of Islam, centered on large Sufi brotherhoods, makes it a special place where Islam in Africa has created a fascinating culture … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

NEW LIFE IN ISRAEL-AFRICA TIES AT THE UN
Melanie Kent
AJC, June 16, 2018

June 13, 2018, was a roller coaster of a day for those seated in the United Nations General Assembly Hall in New York. An emergency special session had been called in response to the recent violence at the Gaza border, one of the largest escalations since 2014. The drama here wasn’t about the end result—the status quo on Israel-related resolutions at the UN is a landslide against Israel. Rather, it was caused by voting on an amendment to the day’s resolution, voting that dramatically exposed the fraying edges of the usual consensus.

A U.S. amendment condemned the terrorists of Hamas and—stunningly—received a majority. Then, when the Secretary General noted that a two-thirds majority was required for the amendment to pass, an appeal of his decision lost by only six votes.

Because the UN is a space where the battle over storylines—an essential component of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict itself—is fought, this was a moral victory for Israel, if not a technical one.

That important anti-Hamas majority had been reached by a margin of just four votes, three of them African: Liberia, Togo, and South Sudan sided with Israel, and 12 other African nations gave their tacit support by abstaining. These African votes suggest a new and altered landscape for Israel and Africa at the UN, part of a gradual shift that AJC has helped generate.

Voting in perspective

Some context: African countries have a long history of voting quite consistently on Israel-related issues at the UN—and not in Israel’s favor. In the General Assembly each country gets one vote, which means that Africa’s 54 countries, with over a quarter of those votes, weigh in heavily. What makes this percentage even more significant is that these countries mostly vote together as a bloc: the African Group. Such voting by consensus creates a kind of magnetism, so that countries that may be otherwise inclined or ambivalent end up toeing the party line rather than risk alienation from various voting blocs. United, the African Group is a force to be reckoned with, and it is deeply invested in keeping it that way.

So, who sets the tone on Israel? Generally, North African leadership, especially Egypt, as well as Algeria, Tunisia, and traditionally Libya and Sudan, have carried the banner here. Other heavyweights on the continent such as Nigeria and South Africa shape the conversation too—the latter increasingly so. Almost all African countries are also members of two unofficial voting blocs at the UN, making up about 40 percent of both the Non-Aligned Movement and the Group of 77. Both groups are strongly and actively anti-Israel, NAM in the political sphere and the G77 on economic issues. Decisions in the African Group are closely connected to positions of the African Union, outside the UN. African nations make up nearly half the membership of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which, in a parallel way, tracks closely with the positions of the Arab Group—without a doubt the major player on Israel-related issues at the UN. The EU, not always a reliable vote for Israel, also impacts African votes. “On the Israel issue, the EU is viewed by many as a moral compass, although it is more a political compass,” says Felice Gaer, director of AJC’s Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights… [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]

The CIJR wishes all its friends and supporters a HAPPY PURIM!