Israel seeks to regain its observer status at the African Union

Israel was an observer member of the Organization of African Unity until the OAU was dissolved and replaced by the African Union in 2002.

February 18, 2016 05:19
2 minute read.
Uhuru Kenyatta

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta. (photo credit: REUTERS)

“Palestine” has observer status at the African Union, while Israel does not, an anomaly Israeli officials are expected to raise next week during the visit of Kenyan President Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta.

Israel was an observer member of the Organization of African Unity until the OAU was dissolved and replaced by the African Union in 2002. Then, under pressure from Libya’s former strongman Muammar Gaddafi, Israel lost this status, something it now wants to regain.

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“Palestine,” by contrast, was granted this status in 2013.

As a result, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has the ability to address the organization, and has done so in the past.

This has led to some vicious anti-Israel resolutions being passed, with Israel not having the ability to get its voice heard.

The African Union represents some 54 African states. Israel has diplomatic relations with 41 African countries, and embassies in 11 of them. Jerusalem is urging leaders of friendly African states to push forward a proposal to again extend observer status in the African Union to Jerusalem.

Former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman, who visited Africa twice during his tenure – the last time being in 2014 – tried unsuccessfully to move the issue during that trip.

“Africa is an important goal of Israeli foreign policy, and we will make a diplomatic effort to ensure that Israel will be accepted in the coming year as an observer in the African Union,” Liberman said at the time.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently addressed the need to work for a change in attitudes toward Israel in international forums, including the African Union.

Netanyahu, in an address Sunday to the annual meeting of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem, said that in conversations with world leaders he tells them that the time has come to translate stronger bilateral ties into votes in international forums.

“I think that we have to press this point. We shouldn’t be shy about it.

We shouldn’t accept that there is this strange dichotomy and dissonance between the friendship and the alliances that are being built between Israel and the many countries and the way they vote about Israel in international forums,” he said.

“I think that’s true of the EU; it’s true of the Organization for African Unity; it’s true in Latin America,” he added. “And I think we should press this point home, because as interests shift, as Israel becomes such an important country internationally, it’s important that this will be reflected in international forums as well.”

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