MBITIRU: Israel out for better ties with Africa


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In his latest leg of diplomatic in sub-Sahara diplomatic charm, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu got effusive but made a point: you are either with us or not.

It was in Monrovia, Liberia, a week ago. The highlight of the one-day visit—a bit inaccurate considering a day is 24 hours and he there for fewer—was an address to the gathering of the Economic Community of West African States, Ecowas, leaders.

He became the first non-African head of government or state to address the gathering of the 15-member states organisation that pursues cohesions of myriad mutual interests.

There he expounded on a theme of mid-last year’s visit to Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia. “Israel is returning to Africa in a big way.”

That’s a reference to the 1973 severance of diplomatic relations by at least 29 African states in sub-Sahara Africa and the renewal that began in 1990s.

Belatedly, he went on to explain the main reason for the “return” as a priority: “I believe in Africa. I believe in its potential, present and future. It is a continent on the rise.” Welcome, although it’s a dubious proposition nations act on beliefs.

It’s worthy of note in most cases the 1973 “severance” amounted to only to disappearances of red carpets and diplomatic platitudes. Most of nations’ interactions—trade et al—mostly remained a la “business as usual.”

It’s worthy of another note. The root cause of the break-up, until then mutually beneficial relationship between sub-Sahara nations and Israel was the latter’s quarrel, to put it mildly, with Palestinians, that still continues.

The 1948 creation, or for that matter the “return” of Israel and the ensuing quarrel with Palestinians is not the subject here.

However, it was only logical that an emerging nation would have an affinity with others doing so.

So do persons seeking identity and in the context of late 1950s and early 1960s in sub-Sahara Africa, nationhood.

And in the case of Israel, with hostile neighbours—that’s another story—making friends isn’t only logical but wise.

The talk about “Israel returning to Africa”—and Israeli-Africans (Falashas) are conspicuously absent—is dominated by what Israel can offer Africa. Heck! Even Mongolians can.

Nations take, and like Italians would say sometime with modificato, what they need or want from each other.

Suffice to say it all requires reciprocity, not strong arms tactics, or transforming each other into robotic “jump!-how-high?” types.

On the eve of departure to Monrovia, Netanyahu told reporters: “The purpose of this trip is to dissolve this majority; this giant block of 54 African countries that is the basic of automatic majority against Israel…” in the international for a, a sort of “jump!-how high?”

Well, partnership survives on the basis of “my friend, right or wrong, this time wrong.” That goes with nations.

In Addis Ababa, Netanyahu said: “Whether the romance will be sustained this time remains to be seen…” Well, it depends on heeding to “my friend, this time…” not on “with me or not.” Senegal got a taste of that from Israel in December. 

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