Israel builds on ties in Africa, Middle East

By July 26 2016, 12:50 Latest News No Comments

Egypt-Foreign-MinisterIn recent weeks and months, Israel has sought to strengthen ties with states in Africa and the Middle East, with circumstances bringing once-hostile states together.

Dr. Anwar Eshki, a former Saudi general known to have close ties to the Saudi monarchy, visited Israel recently, alongside a group of Saudi businessmen and academics, marking a rare public interaction between the two countries who have no official relations. Dr. Eshki reportedly met with Israel’s Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold, as well as the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Maj-Gen. Yoav Mordechai. Knesset Members Ksenia Svetlova from the Zionist Union party, and Michal Rozin and Issawi Frej from Meretz, also took part in the meetings.

Whilst reluctant to make any amendments to its 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, which calls for an Israeli withdrawal to pre-1967 borders in return for a comprehensive peace treaty with 56 other Arab and Muslim states, Saudi Arabia has noticeably found new reasons to seek an accord with Israel – mainly Iran’s regional ambitions, and what the Saudis see as Iran’s exploitation of the Palestinian issue.

Israel’s recent path on diplomatic reconciliation has found a more official route in the African continent. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stressed the importance of improving ties with Africa, and in early July visited Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Uganda. Guinea, followed by Chad, last week announced the reestablishment of ties with Israel; both countries are Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) members. Israel’s Foreign Ministry described Chad, which cut ties with Israel in 1972, as a, “central state on the African continent [and] a Muslim nation that speaks Arabic and which is struggling against radical Islamist terrorism”.

Israel’s position in the international community has indeed been strengthened this year, most notably with the reconciliation deal between Jerusalem and Ankara. Ties between once-close-allies Israel and Turkey had deteriorated following the 2010 flotilla incident. Turkey, a member of NATO, has played a crucial role in the fight against Islamic State and has now as part of its deal with Israel banned members of Hamas’ military wing from operating on Turkish soil. Turkey under the accord will provide Gaza with civilian and humanitarian aid. Netanyahu commented that Turkey’s help in building both a power and a desalination plant in Gaza – with the latter helping to prevent Gaza’s water aquifer from being contaminated – helps both the Palestinians as well as Israel.

These developments and treaties could contribute to what Prime Minister Netanyahu describes as, “a broader peace in [the] region”. Egypt, which signed its peace accord with Israel in 1979, sent its Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry on a rare visit to Israel earlier this month – the first visit of its kind in nine years. Shoukry commented on his bid to help revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, stating: “It is no longer acceptable to claim that the status quo is the most that we can achieve of the hopes and aspirations of the Palestinian and Israeli peoples”.

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