Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman talks with Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud during the Gulf Cooperation Council's (GCC) Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia December 9, 2018.
(photo credit: BANDAR ALGALOUD/COURTESY OF SAUDI ROYAL COURT/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
Saudi Arabia, which behind closed doors is reportedly cooperating with Israel on a range of issues, chaired an Arab League meeting in Cairo on Wednesday to stem Israeli inroads into Africa.
According to the Saudi Press Agency, Ahmed Abdulaziz Kattan – the Saudi Minister of State for African Affairs – chaired a meeting of the Arab Ministerial Committee to Counter Israeli Activities in Africa. This meeting was held on the sidelines of the Arab League’s regular meeting of foreign ministers.
The meeting, according to Asharq Al-Awsat, was “expected to tackle an action plan discussed earlier by permanent representatives to confront Israel’s ‘expansion’ in Africa” in an attempt to influence the votes of African states in international forums.
Over the last several years – as Israel has put better ties with Africa high on its foreign policy agenda – the votes of sub-Saharan African countries in the UN on Israel-related issues have improved significantly from Israel’s point of view.
In addition to Saudi Arabia, the committee includes representatives from Sudan, Libya, Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority, as well as Arab League secretary-general Ahmed Aboul Gheit.
An Israeli Foreign Ministry official said in response that the countries of Africa “understand the advantages of cooperation with Israel in light of its proven abilities in the fields of sustainable development and anti-terrorism.”
“Israel is not competing with any other country,” the official added. “On the contrary, it is willing to promote trilateral cooperation in Africa.”
According to Asharq Al-Awsat, Diab Allouh – the Palestinian envoy to the Arab League – called Tuesday for “joint Arab cooperation, particularly from Egypt, which currently chairs the African Union and has close relations with all countries.”
According to the report, Allouh said that Israel was trying to invest in agriculture and security in Africa, but that “Arab states are capable to fill the gap and prevent Israel from using those sectors to expand in Africa.”
Wednesday’s meeting was a follow up to an Arab League meeting in January – soon after Chad established diplomatic ties with Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveled there – when a committee was set up to discuss “means of curtailing the further expansion of Israeli influence on the African continent.”
Ironically, Israeli officials have said that it is precisely Israel’s close security ties with Egypt and Jordan – as well as the well-known but under-the-radar contacts with Saudi Arabia and Persian Gulf countries – that have convinced many African countries that they no longer have to be worried about Arab pressure against developing ties with Israel, since the Arab states themselves have these ties.
Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta said as much when he welcomed Netanyahu to Nairobi in 2016. Noting that Israel today has better relations with its immediate Arab neighbors than it ever had before, Kenyatta said at the time, “Why should we on the African continent say we know better than those in the region?”
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