Netanyahu: Israel seeks support of African states at UN

PM tells gathering of envoys to the continent that changing voting pattern there is a major diplomatic goal

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (third from left) meets with Israeli ambassadors to African countries, February 8, 2017. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (third from left) meets with Israeli ambassadors to African countries, February 8, 2017. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Israel’s top diplomatic goal in Africa is to end the “automatic” votes against it by African representatives at the UN, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a gathering of Israel’s envoys to the continent.

Africa holds a “very high place” in Israel’s foreign policy priorities, Netanyahu said.

“Africa is as high as it has ever been in the pyramid of our foreign policy interests, except perhaps in the 1960s,” he declared. “The first interest is to dramatically change the situation regarding African votes at the UN and other international bodies from opposition to support. Africa has moved to an intermediate stage, that of abstention.

“Our goal is to change their voting patterns given that the automatic majority against Israel at the UN is composed — first and foremost — of Arab countries. There are 54 countries [in Africa]. If you change the voting pattern of a majority of them, you at once bring them from one side to the other. We want to erode the opposition and change it to support,” the prime minister added.

“While there are many other goals, it outweighs them all,” he stressed, and predicted that “the day is not far off when we will have a majority [of support] there [in the UN].”

In December 2016 Israel hosted seven ministers and many other top officials from over a dozen Western African countries at an agricultural conference.

The three-day event — entitled “Enhancing Sustainable Agricultural Productivity in Arid and Semi-Arid Regions” — was co-organized by Mashav, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation, and the Economic Community of West African States, a union known as ECOWAS.

The delegates to the conference were the foreign ministers of Nigeria, Togo, Liberia, Guinea, Cape Verde, Gambia, and Sierra Leone; and senior officials from Benin, Burkina Faso, the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, and Senegal.

Improving ties with Africa has been one of Netanyahu’s key foreign policy priorities, which led to his July 2016 visit to four countries in Eastern Africa, where he met with seven heads of state. Two months later, he held a meeting with more than 15 African leaders on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Netanyahu is Israel’s acting foreign minister.

Raphel Ahren contributed to this report.

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