Netanyahu with Togo FM Robert Dussey.
(photo credit: CHAIM ZACH / GPO)
Early contacts are under way to plan an Israeli-African summit in Israel next year, following the cancellation of a first-of-its-kind summit that was to be held next week in Lomé, Togo.
In other words, if for various reasons you can’t bring Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Africa for a joint meeting with some 20 heads of government, then bring the heads of government here.
The landmark summit that was some two years in the making and that was to begin next Tuesday was canceled last month, with the Foreign Ministry citing political instability in the host country. Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in the days before the announcement, to protest against Togolese President Faure Gnassingbé and demand term limits. Massive demonstrations are expected this week in Lomé as well.
Gnassingbé has been in power for the last 12 years, and his father was president for 38 years before him.
In addition to the political instability, Togo came under pressure from the Palestinians, Morocco and some other African states to cancel the event, though diplomatic officials involved in the issue say this was not a key element in the decision to shelve it.
PM Netanyahu meets FM of Togo Robert Dussey
Though the website for the summit, which is still active, states that it has been “postponed,” officials involved said that it will definitely not be taking place in Togo. At the time of the cancellation, 14 heads of African countries had already confirmed their attendance, with another five to 10 expected to have done so by the time of the summit’s opening.
Currently, diplomatic officials and businessmen are looking at the feasibility of holding the conference in Israel to bypass African political instability. The idea will then need to be taken to Netanyahu for his final approval. Netanyahu, who has traveled to Africa twice in the last 16 months, has made Israel’s “return to Africa” a key element of his foreign policy.
One official involved in efforts to hold the summit here said that when the idea of an African-Israel summit was hatched two years ago, the original notion was to hold the event here. Senior officials in the Foreign Ministry, however, suggested holding it instead in Africa, saying it would be “more sexy, more exciting.”
The official said that currently the hope is to hold the summit here within the next six months, to correspond with the country’s 70th year of independence, and also to mark 60 years since the establishment of Mashav – Israel’s agency for international development cooperation that over the years has engaged in hundreds of projects with African countries.
“The problem is that if we choose another African country for the summit, you will always run the risk of instability, demonstrations or other political problems there as well,” the official said. “So we are going back to the original concept of holding it in Israel, and if that is successful, then perhaps holding the next one in Africa.”
He said that while 25 African leaders may have attended the summit in Togo, around 15 would probably come to Israel to take part in the event.