NAIROBI, Kenya — Hailing the importance of his current visit to four African countries, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday vowed to further expand Israel’s ties with the entire continent, so much so as to eliminate the so-called automatic majority against the Jewish state in international forums such as the United Nations.
After concluding a summit with African leaders from seven countries in Entebbe, Uganda, Netanyahu said that the number of countries in the continent seeking to actively cooperate with Israel would continue to increase. This would lead to a change in African nations’ voting patterns, he said, though he stopped short of announcing any concrete promises made to him by the leaders he met earlier in the day.
“We want this alliance, this alliance can gradually change — it will take time — but we have set a goal,” he told reporters aboard his plane as it neared Nairobi airport.
“It might take a decade, but we will change the automatic majority against Israel. That’s something that has never been possible in the past… We are a country with values that is sought after by countries in the world. We have many admirers in the world,” he said in response to a question from The Times of Israel.
The first signs of a changing voting pattern could be seen already last September, at the International Atomic Energy Agency’s General Conference in Vienna, during which Egypt had proposed a resolution calling for an international inspections regime for Israel’s nuclear facilities. The resolution failed to garner a majority.
“Some [African] countries voted for us, or not against us. This trend will continue,” the prime minister said.
Netanyahu also cited Tanzania’s stated intention to open its first-ever embassy in Israel as a further sign of warming ties between the continent and the Jewish state.
After his current tour through East Africa, Netanyahu is planning a similar visit to the Western part of the continent in the future, he said, declining to name the countries he intends to visit.
The premier also dismissed reports of a new investigation against him. “Every time I go abroad they come up with some investigation. It’s nonsense,” he said
Earlier on Monday, at the beginning of a summit with leaders from seven African states — Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, South Sudan, and Zambia — Netanyahu spoke of a “monumental change in the relations between Israel and Africa,” calling the meeting at Entebbe’s presidential palace a “milestone.”
“I believe in Africa. I believe in your future and I believe in our partnership for this future,” the prime minister said. “And I believe that this meeting will be seen as a turning point in Israel’s ability to reach a broad number of African countries, which is our goal.”
At a regional counter-terrorism summit that was held in the framework of Netanyahu’s visit to Entebbe, the prime minister and the presidents of the seven African nations issued a joint declaration that reinforced Netanyahu’s statement.
“This summit heralds the opening of a new era in relations between Israel and the countries of Africa,” the statement read.
Israel and the seven African nations pledged to further cooperation on a wide range of fields, chiefly among them counter-terrorism and technology.
The African countries further said they “look forward to the African Union promptly re-granting observer status to the State of Israel,” the joint statement read. “This step will reflect the friendship and be mutually beneficial to both parties.”
Israel once had observer status at the AU but lost it due to pressure from Northern African Arab states a decade ago.
Reflecting on the event marking the 40th anniversary of Israel’s daring hostage rescue operation at Entebbe airport, Netanyahu said it was remarkable that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni declared in his speech that Israel was right to launch a raid seeking to free the hostages.
“It’s amazing that the president of a country that we entered, and where we killed soldiers from that country, justified our actions and even held a ceremony to commemorate it,” Netanyahu said during the briefing for the traveling press.
Museveni oddly referred to Israel in his speech as “Palestine,” but Netanyahu said the president had later explained to him that he meant to refer to the territory of Mandatory Palestine.
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