For years, Israel has built many projects in Africa, including medical technology, agriculture, water purification technologies, development, security and military training, covering basic needs of the African continent. It is well-known that these projects are not provided solely for the sake of Africa, but they are meant to help Israel improve its image and thus end its isolation under the growing world criticism of its colonial treatment of Palestinians.
Most recently, Africa has drawn more attention in Israeli newspapers in focusing — falsely, of course — on a claim of “the unity of tragedy” between the Jewish and African people, who suffered from slavery just as the Jews suffered “Holocaust” and displacement! During the last three years, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Africa three times, including a historic visit in June 2017 to Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Liberia. During this visit, Netanyahu was the first non-African leader to address the West African Conference, with one-third of the participating members being Muslim. Then, in July 2016, relations with Guinea were renewed, and a year later, Netanyahu and Ebrahim Abu Bakr Keita, president of Mali, agreed to restore bilateral relations.
With Israel’s continued moves into Africa and the recent visit of Chadian President Idriss Deby to occupied Jerusalem and his meeting with Netanyahu, Israel proceeds with its achievements in the continent after a halt since the early 1970s. Indeed, the importance of Deby’s visit to Israel is that first, Chad lies in the heart of Africa; and second, because it is a Muslim-majority state. Therefore, it is not unlikely that after Chad restored relations with Israel, more African countries may follow suit. African countries, with their needs of advanced Israeli technology in agriculture and water — the two biggest problems facing the African continent — see this as a win-win situation.
In addition to cooperation in these two key areas, the spread of extremist organisations has made African countries seek to improve relations with Israel. First, it guarantees Israel’s generous logistical and military assistance, as well as high-level training. Second, it will gain satisfaction from the American administration and thus will draw on the very close relations between Israel and the administration of United States President Donald Trump. “For Chad, the most important issue is security,” wrote Omar Dostri, a researcher at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Research. He added: “Chad has faced in recent years threats from Boko Haram”. In fact, several reports confirmed that the issue of security and coordination of efforts to fight terrorism in Africa topped Netanyahu-Deby meeting. According to the Israeli Debka news website: “The Chadian President sought, through his visit to Tel Aviv, to persuade Israel to participate in the war against Al Qaida and the organisation of Daesh throughout the African continent, and to join the efforts of the United States and France devoted to that in this region.”
Israel is beginning to re-establish a network of relations to destroy what it calls “the Arab political-economic siege”. This has been made possible by an active Israeli diplomacy. “Israel’s blessed return to Africa is made possible by working to come out of the political isolation that it has imposed on itself for a very long time,” said Israeli writer Eldad Bek. His view is that “Israel has adopted a negative foreign policy that [is] focused on ‘comfortable’ regions such as the US and Europe. The change in Israel’s international standing in recent years, away from any progress in the ‘peace process’ (with the Palestinians and other Arabs), has been absorbed in African capitals”. One must admit that since Netanyahu took office in 2009, Israel has managed to penetrate Africa and restore diplomatic relations with several countries. This carefully planned drive will most probably transfer Israeli relations in Africa to a comprehensive framework, and then the possible main loser will only be the Palestinian cause as it will lose the most important and heaviest voting bloc shielding it, which has always been represented by African countries.
With the ‘early spring’ arrival of Israel into Africa, will the Arab League states meet the challenge or enter an ‘autumn’ there? The Arabs must thwart these ambitions of Tel Aviv. It is time to call for an Arab or even Islamic tangible confrontation against Israeli penetration in Africa before it is too late.
Professor As’ad Abdul Rahman is the chairman of the Palestinian Encyclopaedia.