Africa: a Springtime for Israel or an Arab Autumn?

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 the 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 peoples, who suffered from slavery just as the Jews suffered “Holocaust” and displacement !! Israel is also seeking to get closer to Africa as a step in response to Iran’s attempts to gain a foothold in the continent. 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 Ibrahim Abu Bakr Keita, president of the Muslim state of Mali, agreed to restore bilateral relations.

With Israel’s continued moves into Africa and the recent visit of the Chadian President Idriss Deby to occupied Jerusalem (claimed to be “the eternal unified Israeli capital”) 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 secondly, because it is a Muslim-majority state. Therefore, it is not unlikely that after Chad restored relations with Israel, more African countries, even those with a Muslim majority, will follow suit. Poor African countries, especially the Muslim ones, see a movement of rapprochement between Israel and a number of Arab countries; so why remain behind, especially with their needs of advanced Israeli technology in agriculture and water, the two biggest problems facing the African continent?

In addition to cooperation in these two main areas, the spread of “Islamic” extremist organizations 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 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 extremist Islam from the Nigerian organization Boko Haram, and terrorist organizations that are part of the Da’esh group”. In fact, several reports confirmed that the issue of security and coordination of efforts to fight terrorism in Africa topped the Netanyahu-Deby’s 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-Qaeda and the organization of Da’esh 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 was made possible with the weakness of the Arab world, in addition to 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 focused on ‘comfortable’ regions such as the United States and Europe. The positive 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, and as in the past, Israel can give a lot to Africa. Africa has a lot to offer Israel.” 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? If we call for an Arab or even Islamic tangible confrontation against the Israeli penetration in Africa, in light of an accelerated official Arab normalization of ties with Israel, would we be like someone who ‘screams out loud’ in vain, with no response from Arab countries, who are so busy with their very loud multi-dimensioned problems and consequently can’t even hear such screams?!