The Deputy Director for Africa at the Foreign Ministry Sharon Bar-li and the other members of the Israeli delegation were expelled from the African Union conference hall in Addis Ababa, where Israel was participating as an observer, on Saturday morning.
This is an unusual event in international conventions and is considered to be a serious diplomatic incident.
The incident occurred during the opening ceremony when the security personnel of the conference approached the members of the Israeli delegation and asked them to leave the hall. A senior official at the Foreign Ministry said that the delegation members learned that South Africa and Algeria were behind the move.
Foreign Minister spokesperson Lior Hair responded to the incident, saying: “Israel takes the incident in which the Deputy Director for Africa Ambassador Sharon Bar-li was removed from the African Union Hall despite her status as an accredited observer with access badges very seriously.
“It is sad to see that the African Union has been taken hostage by a small number of extremist countries such as Algeria and South Africa, driven by hatred and controlled by Iran. We call on African countries to stand against these actions that harm the organization of the African Union itself and the entire continent.”
Ebba Kalondo, the spokesperson for the African Union’s commission chairman, said the diplomat had been removed because she was not the duly accredited Israeli ambassador to Ethiopia, the official who was expected.
South Africa rejected the claim that they were behind the decision to remove the diplomat, saying Israel’s application for observer status at the AU has not been decided upon by the bloc.
“Until the AU takes a decision on whether to grant Israel observer status, you cannot have the country sitting and observing,” Clayson Monyela, head of public diplomacy in South Africa’s department of international relations, told Reuters.
“So, it’s not about South Africa or Algeria, it’s an issue of principle.”
The Algerian delegation at the summit was not immediately available for comment.
Israel in the African Union
Israel was granted observer status in the African Union in July 2021, after losing its status in 2002 following pressure from former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
Israel holds formal relations with 46 African nations – all members of the African Union. In recent years, relations were renewed with Guinea and Chad, who cut their diplomatic ties to Israel in 1967 and 1972 respectively, with Chad opening an embassy in Ramat Gan earlier this month.
Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.