Just over a year ago, Liberia announced that it was opening a trade office in Jerusalem and that this office would eventually become an embassy.
As yet, there has been no further progress, but President Isaac Herzog raised the issue on Tuesday when he met with Liberian President George Weah, who is on a working visit to Israel.
Weah arrived in Jerusalem on Monday with a large ministerial delegation. He is scheduled to leave on Thursday. One of the first places that he visited was the Western Wall, where he prayed for success, peace for his people, and protection for his family. The first part of the prayer related to the upcoming presidential elections on October 10.
Who is the President of Liberia?
Weah who was sworn into office in January 2018 had been unsuccessful in his first run for the presidency in 2005, and again when he ran for vice president in 2011. But in the 2017 elections, he struck it lucky.
Before visiting Herzog at the President’s Residence on Tuesday, Weah went to church and prayed for the same things that he had prayed for at the Western Wall.
A retired international footballer, who played for various top-notch European teams, he was considered the best footballer that Africa ever produced. He is also Africa’s first professional footballer to serve as president of his country.
Due to his long former career, Weah excited considerable media attention, primarily from sports photographers and reporters, who crowded into the main hall of the President’s Residence.
In an unusual step, Weah held a press conference with them after concluding his meeting with Herzog. Questions and comments also related to his 23-year-old son Tim, who last week signed a contract with famed Italian team Juventus, thereby fulfilling his father’s dream. The senior Weah had always hoped to play for Juventus, but somehow that did not materialize.
Opening an embassy in Jerusalem
In urging Liberia to open an embassy in Jerusalem, Herzog told his guest that if that happens, there will be a dramatic increase in trade and bilateral relations because it would put Liberia on Israel’s economic radar and provide Liberia with many contacts which it does not yet have.
But there are issues such as agricultural assistance, which can be addressed immediately, said Herzog.
He was reminded that this was discussed during Weah’s previous visit and nothing was done.
Herzog demanded to know whether Israel or Liberia was responsible for the delay. “Where did it get stuck?” he asked, adding that whenever such issues are discussed, there must be follow-up.
Weah said that he did not want to promise his people something that could not be delivered.
Another issue raised by Herzog was Israel’s right to attend meetings of the African Union. Israel’s observer status was restored in 2021 after a long hiatus, but when Sharon Bar Li, the Foreign Ministry’s Deputy Director General for Africa arrived with a delegation to the AU’s meeting in February of this year, she and the delegation were asked to leave. “We have a right to be there. We have observer status,” said Herzog as he asked for Weah’s help in ensuring that Bar Li would be permitted to attend the next meeting.
Herzog said that he wanted to pay a state visit to Africa and to meet with leaders of different states to impress upon them the importance of solidifying their relations with Israel for the bilateral and multilateral benefit of all.
Weah is also scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with whom he has had a particularly good relationship in the past.