The Knesset launched its caucus for Israel-Africa relations on Monday, February 29, 2016. The effort to establish the caucus was initiated by Member of Knesset Avraham Naguisa (Likud), the only MK to immigrate to Israel from Ethiopia.
Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke at the caucus event with African ambassadors about the importance of a very close bilateral relationship between Israel and Africa.
“Israel is coming back to Africa, and Africa is coming back to Israel,” said Netanyahu. “It’s happening now because it’s so clear that this is good for Africa and it’s good for Israel.”
Netanyahu argued that Israel and Africa have shared interests and should therefore improve relations on that basis.
“I have no doubt whatsoever that today the interests of Africa and the interests of Israel cohere,” the prime minister contended. “They’re almost identical, and in some respects and in many respects they are identical.”
Netanyahu claimed that the mutual interests involve challenges and opportunities common to both Israel and Africa such as overcoming the forces of militant Islamic terrorism and seizing the technological opportunities of the future. Accordingly, he expressed his desire for Israel and Africa to act together in global organizations such as the UN.
“What I’d like to see is the closeness of our relationship reflected also in the voting pattern of the African Union,” Netanyahu told the African ambassadors. “You should vote for the interests of your own countries and you should vote for the interests of Africa. I wish to see that reflected in our bilateral relationship and also in our multilateral relationship.”
The challenge of militant Islam, which Israel has faced for a number of years, has also become a recent phenomenon throughout Africa in the years following the Arab Spring in 2011. Netanyahu made it clear that Israel would provide support in combating Islamist terror groups.
“We understand the dangers of Al-Shabab,” Netanyahu said about the East African terrorist group. “We understand the dangers of the other militancies that threaten your countries in Africa and we are prepared to work with you to defeat them.”
Israel has helped Africa technologically in a number of sectors and in the agricultural sector in particular by introducing techniques such as drip irrigation, which is especially useful in arid climates.
Netanyahu added that Israel was in a unique position to help with cyber security.
“Israel is now a world power in cyber security and my policy is to make some of our experience available to our friends,” stressed the prime minister. “We consider you great friends.”
Netanyahu also committed to making frequent visits to Africa. He promised the ambassadors that “for too long you have come here and we have not come there, and we are going to change that.”