Tanzanian envoy: Israeli effort to move embassies far greater than result

“I am not the only one they are trying to persuade,” Masima said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post. “They are trying to persuade all the embassies.”

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April 30, 2019 01:42
3 minute read.
Tanzanian envoy: Israeli effort to move embassies far greater than result

Tanzanian ambassador Job Masima. (photo credit: TANZANIAN EMBASSY)

Since the US moved its embassy to Jerusalem last May, only one other country has followed – Guatemala – but it’s not for lack of trying, according to Tanzania’s ambassador Job Masima, whose country the Israeli government is also trying to persuade to move its embassy to the capital, as it is with many others nations.

“I am not the only one they are trying to persuade,” Masima said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post. “They are trying to persuade all the embassies.”

Asked how this is being done, he replied: “Through diplomatic channels, through meetings, conversations, leaders-to-leaders. Israel is very aggressive in that. I congratulate you – the effort you are putting on that one is really good, although the results are not equal to the amount of energy used. But who knows, the bottom line is that this is a political decision, not a technical one, made by political leaders.”

Masima spoke to the Post on the occasion of Tanzania’s Union Day – April 26 – and also to mark a year since the East African country opened an embassy in Ramat Gan. He said that he has not come under any pressure from the Americans to move the embassy to Jerusalem, although he does not know if there have been direct appeals from Washington to the Tanzanian government.
“For now, we are still here [in Ramat Gan],” he said. “For us what matters is our presence here in Israel – that is the crucial thing. The issue of moving to Jerusalem is a political decision, and no political decision has been made, so we are still here.”

When Tanzania opened its embassy in Israel in May, it became the 15th African country to do so. Israel has 11 embassies in Africa – the most recent one opened earlier this year in Rwanda – and Masima said that he “suspects that the next in line will be Tanzania.”

One of the benefits of opening the embassy has been a marked increase in Israeli tourists going to Tanzania.

According to Masima, some 45,000 Israelis visited his country last year – nearly doubling the number who traveled there in 2017, before the opening of the embassy. He said that the embassy has simply made it much easier to secure a visa.

About a thousand Israelis flew to Tanzania on four direct charter flights over Passover. Due to improved relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea, it is now possible to fly over the two African countries on the way to Tanzania, instead of going around Somalia on a more circuitous route. This has cut about an hour off of travel time, which is now some five hours to Kilimanjaro Airport in northern Tanzania.

From there, many Israelis either go to one of the nation’s many game preserves and natural parks, or fly to Zanzibar. Masima said that 10% of all the tourists in Zanzibar last year were Israelis. He said that there are preliminary talks with Israel about inaugurating Air Tanzania flights to Israel.

When asked if the significant increase in Israeli tourists does not cause security concerns for his government, Masima said that while Tanzania has beefed up its security as a result of the increase of tourism from Israel, one of the reasons he believes Israelis are increasingly flying there is because of a sense that the country is safe.

Since the twin 1998 attacks on the US embassies in Dar es Salaam and Kenya’s capital Nairobi, Tanzania has not been plagued by Islamic terror, he said.

“We keep on praying this will pass over us and we will maintain the level of safety we are having in the country.” the ambassador said.

Masima said that Israel and Tanzania maintain “very strong” security cooperation, and that when former defense minister Avigdor Lieberman visited the African country last year, a memorandum of understanding was signed governing a number of security and defense related issues, including training and the exchange of information. “We are implementing them,” Masima said of these agreements.

The envoy said that when Tanzanian Foreign Minister Augustine Philip Mahiga came to Israel last year for the opening of the embassy, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he would like to visit Tanzania during the first quarter of 2019, a visit that was shelved because of the elections. But after the government is formed, Masima said, “I suspect the visit of [Israeli] leaders and the engagement of Israel with Africa is likely to be intensified.”


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