The new Egyptian ambassador to Israel met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday in Jerusalem. The Prime Minister’s Office released a statement that “the two discussed, among other things, relations between Israel and Egypt, regional issues and the diplomatic process with the Palestinians.” The ambassador, Hazem Khairat, presented his credentials to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin last Thursday. On that occasion, Rivlin said that Khairat had told him “that he is very happy and very proud to be in Israel and that he hopes that his presence here will bring about a situation in which the friendship between the Jewish people and the Arab people in general, and between the countries of the region, will be such that we can live in peace.”
An Egyptian member of parliament, Tawfiq Okasha, publicly invited Israel’s ambassador to Egypt, Haim Koren, to dinner at his home last Tuesday night. That same day, Koren addressed the Egyptian media, saying that “the neighborly relations and cooperation between us are very good. I love the Egyptian nation. As you all know, there is a mutual interest between Egypt and Israel, as there is a mutual interest between Israel and the Arab world in general – be it Saudi Arabia, Jordan, or the other countries in the Arabian Gulf.”
There has been increasing military and intelligence cooperation between Egypt and Israel. Egyptian Presidential Abdel Fatah al-Sisi told The Washington Post’s Lally Weymouth last March that he speaks with Netanyahu “[a] lot.” Israeli journalist Ben Caspit wrote on Monday that “Egypt’s higher stratums – from the president to the regime’s high echelons, the military, intelligence and the elites – view Israel as an important, powerful ally in regional struggles.” The two nations share concerns about the Sinai branch of ISIS as well as Hamas. ISIS-Sinai has bombed a Sinai hotel; carried out attacks in El Arish; assaulted military checkpoints in northern Sinai, leading to over 100 deaths; attacked an Egyptian naval vessel in the Mediterranean Sea; and claimed responsibility for the downing of a Russian plane in October of last year, which killed 224 people. In addition, it has fired rockets into southern Israel. ISIS-Sinai has smuggled arms to Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Egypt has demolished and flooded underground tunnels along its border with Gaza and Sisi has ordered the construction of a buffer zone along the Egypt-Gaza border to prevent smuggling.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the formation of a new Israel-Africa Knesset caucus and confirmed that he will be traveling to the continent this summer, The Jerusalem Post reported on Tuesday.Netanyahu, who will be the first sitting Israeli Prime Minister to visit Africa since Yitzhak Shamir in 1987, is set to arrive in Uganda and Kenya around the 40th anniversary of Operation Entebbe, when Israeli commandos rescued over 100 hostages held by pro-Palestinian terrorists in Uganda’s Entebbe airport.The announcement was made during a Knesset meeting that was attended by 13 African ambassadors, five honorary consuls, and a number of Israeli lawmakers.
“Israel is coming back to Africa; Africa is coming back to Israel,” Netanyahu told the gathered diplomats. “It’s happening in a big way. It’s happening now, but it should have happened a long time ago. It’s happening now because it’s so clear that this is good for Africa and it’s good for Israel. We face a multitude of challenges and opportunities.”
Netanyahu spoke of the deliberate “African strategy” pursued by his government, and emphasized the importance of “overcoming the dark forces of militant Islamic terrorism and seizing the opportunities of the future with technology and everything else we can bring… to bear. What I’d like to see is the closeness of our relationship reflected also in the voting pattern of the African Union.”
In addition to stressing the shared security interests between Israel and African nations, he offered Israeli assistance “in every way – in agriculture, in health care, in water, in irrigation, in science, in technology, in investment, tourism, cyber.”
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein also addressed the diplomats, observing that Israel sought to build relations with African nations since the 1960’s. “I believe that if we want to base relations between our countries on a solid platform, it is important to strengthen it on the level of parliaments,” he observed.
Caucus chairman MK Avraham Neguise (Likud), a native of Ethiopia, added that “The Jewish people and the people of Africa have a sense of sharing a common destiny, because both have suffered from discrimination and foreign rule…. This struggle can bring us together.” Neguise also emphasized that Israeli help in agriculture has benefited many in Africa, saying, “Israeli technologies have raised the quality of life and saved countless lives.”
Henri Etoundi Essomba, Cameroon’s ambassador to Israel, thanked Netanyahu for meeting with the diplomats and “brainstorming how best we can confront the challenges the prime minister just mentioned together.” Essoma hailed Netanyahu’s emphasis on ties between Israel and Africa, adding, “We welcome this initiative and would like to be as instrumental as possible to strengthen and give opportunities to both sides, Israel and Africa.”
Augostino Njoroge, the Kenyan ambassador to Israel, said that President Uhuru Kenyatta considered his trip to Israel last week to be his best international trip, while South Sudan’s Ambassador Ruben Marial Benjamin expressed hope that Netanyahu would visit his nation, as such a trip could “unite the divided tribes and bring peace and an end to bloodshed.” Benjamin added, “The African attitude towards Israel has changed and the time has come to look at our shared interests. The people of South Sudan love Israel.
Kenyan Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed said on a state visit to Israel last week that most African countries see Israel as “a very close friend,” but added that high-level trips, such Netanyahu’s planned visit, would “enhance” diplomatic ties even more. (via TheTower.org)