Friday, 8 July 2016

AFRICA-ISRAEL: Netanyahu in Africa

Today the U.S.-Israeli relationship, long a bedrock alliance for both nations, is rancorous and tense. Israel urgently needs new allies in the global political arena besides Washington. The link between Israel and its main strategic partner, the United States, has weakened, because, at least since the end of the Cold War, America's alliance with Israel has been based on moral obligation rather than a cold calculation of strategic costs and benefits.

The United States is, in fact, pursuing a policy agenda in the Middle East that is increasingly divergent from Israeli interests. The divergence between the two old allies reflects deep changes in the way the United States sees its role in the world and a mounting sensitivity to the costs of national security. Because of this, the split between the United States and Israel is likely to grow.

The Israeli Prime Minister, Netanyahu has visited Africa ( Uganda, Ethiopia and Rwanda) this week to lobby for diplomatic, military alliance from the African countries.

Israel is seeking understanding in places that are not dependent on money from the Arab or Islamic world. As the first Israeli Prime Minister in 28 years to visit sub-Saharan Africa, Netanyahu is asking for political support from countries that have largely sided with Arab nations on resolutions critical of Israel in the United Nations and African Union.

Diplomatically, Israel's relationship with African nations has historically been fraught because of the support for the Palestinian cause from many countries on the continent. The uneasy history of relations is evident in the fact that no Israeli leaders has visited sub-saharan Africa since Yitzhak Shamir in 1987. Scores of African countries, including all the countries that Netanyahu is visiting, cut ties with Israel following the 1973 Israeli-Arab war, only to be restored in the 1990s.

Ties have begun to deepen again over the threat of radical Islam and Israel's outreach beyond its traditional Western allies. Israel's ties with African countries were further frayed because of its historic support for the Apartheid regime in South Africa.

As he builds diplomatic bonds, Netanyahu is more immediately trying to drum up business for Israeli companies. With a delegation of 70 business executives, the African excursion is part of Netanyahu's effort to cultivate new growth markets while economies languish in the country's biggest trade partners, the US and European Union.

Isreali exports to Africa totalled about $1 billion last year, about 2% of its total exports. With insurgencies across Africa, including Al-Qaeda affiliated Al Shabaab and Daesh linked Boko-Haram, Israeli leaders are looking to sell advanced military equipment to the Africans. The move comes as Isreali exports to traditional markets in the EU and US become volatile.

By visiting Africa, the Israeli Prime Minister wants to end decades of hostility and convince African countries to stop voting against Israel at the UN. He also seeks to cast off Israel's pariah status in the African continent as he faces growing criticism from western allies over the dim prospects for a resolution to the decades old-Israel-Palestinian conflict.

In the United Nations, Israel is a constant subject of rebuke over its settlement enterprise in the occupied West Bank and other violations, including its crippling blockade of the Gaza Strip. One of Netanyahu's objectives is to convince African nations not to vote against Israel. However African nations that have survived colonialism and more recently Western plans are skeptical.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Investigative Journalist
Political Analyst/Writer
African Affairs Expert

Photo -Credit: Getty-Images