Israel Looks to Extend Influence in Africa

Liberian president George Weah visited Israel in February. ( France 24 )

Liberian president George Weah visited Israel in February. (France 24)

Israel hosted a state visit for Liberian President George Weah last month to fortify relations with its historic ally and expand its diplomatic reach in Africa, the Jerusalem Post reported. The opening of the first embassy in Rwanda and resumption of diplomatic ties with Chad after over 45 years represent the most striking recent breakthroughs, with indications that Mali could be next.

Israel has a historically difficult position in Africa. Israel’s support of U.S. policy during the Cold War alienated Soviet-leaning and nonaligned states, and following the 1967 Six Day War, multiple nations severed ties in solidarity with Egypt. Most notably, after the 1973 Yom Kippur War, only three African nations maintained diplomatic relations with Israel, according to the website of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Netanyahu declared his intention to re-establish Israel’s presence on the continent in February 2016. That summer, he embarked on a tour of East Africa. Netanyahu explained his new strategy as “good for Africa, and good for Israel,” according to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Indeed, closer ties with Israel means greater access to Israeli technology and security capabilities. Israel is one of the ten highest arms exporting countries in the world, and, as Israeli Channel 13 reports, Israeli Defense Forces provide military training in 13 African states.

For Israel, likewise, recent diplomatic efforts have broader geostrategic aims. The Africa Union states traditionally vote as a bloc in the United Nations, giving them greater weight in the General Assembly and motivating Israel to court their support; Israel Hayom even identified this as one of the goals of recent diplomatic advancements.