PM Benjamin Netanyahu.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who returned Monday from Liberia, said he made clear in each of his 10 separate meetings with African leaders on Sunday that he expects improved bilateral relations to be reflected in changing voting patterns toward Israel in international forums.
Netanyahu told reporters on his plane, however, that this is not a “condition” to Israel’s increased involvement in Africa.
Netanyahu, who spent less than 12 hours in Liberia, said his appearance at the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) summit and his meetings on the sidelines with leaders of 10 of those states opened numerous doors for Israel in Africa.
PM Netanyahu arrives in Liberia (credit: GPO)
“After returning last year from East Africa,” Netanyahu said, referring to his trip to four East African states last summer, “today we are returning to Western Africa.”
Israel has traditionally had an easier time making inroads in East Africa, and Netanyahu noted that it is significant that doors are now opening as well in sub-Saharan West Africa, in countries with either a majority Muslim population or large Muslim populations.
And what adds to the significance, Netanyahu said, is that this is “being done in public.”
“The invitation of Israel’s prime minister, the first non-African leader to address ECOWAS, attests to the success of the foreign policy I am leading, which is strengthening Israel’s power without giving up on Israel’s vital interests in other areas,” he said.
“This approach is different from those who to try gain favor through concessions,” he added. “It would have been easy to make concessions in other areas. But we come with Israel’s power, and that proves itself.”
Netanyahu met at 30-minute intervals Sunday with the presidents of Gambia, Ghana, Mali, Senegal, Togo, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire and Sierra Leone. He also met separately with the ECOWAS Commission president Marcel Alain de Souza, and with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.
The momentum with African states will continue on Tuesday, when Netanyahu is scheduled to meet visiting Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, who arrived Monday for a four-day visit. Netanyahu met Hailemariam last July in Addis Ababa.