Netanyahu to visit Africa, first Israeli PM to do so in 50 years

'Israel is coming back to Africa. Africa is coming back to Israel. It's happening in a big way,' premier proclaims

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta at his Jerusalem office on Monday, February 23, 2016 (Haim Zach/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday announced his intention to travel to Africa this summer, in what would mark the first visit by an Israeli leader to the continent in 50 years.

“I received an invitation from the president of Kenya to visit Africa and I intend to do so around the 40th anniversary of the raid on Entebbe. It was a dramatic national event with great personal consequence for me,” he said at the launch of a new Knesset caucus to promote Israel-Africa ties.

Operation Entebbe was a daring operation to liberate Israeli hostages in Uganda on July 4, 1976. Netanyahu’s brother Yonatan, who led the Israeli commandos, was killed in action.

Netanyahu met with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta in Jerusalem last Tuesday. The two leaders signed a joint statement focusing on water and agricultural issues, promoting cooperation and establishing a joint bilateral committee.

Yoni Netanyahu, in a photograph taken shortly before his death at Entebbe in 1976 (Wikipedia)

“Israel is coming back to Africa. Africa is coming back to Israel. It’s happening in a big way,” the prime minister said Monday in the presence of Israeli lawmakers and several ambassadors from African countries. “It’s happening now because it’s so clear that it’s good for Africa and good for Israel.”

Aside from Kenya, Netanyahu is also expected to visit Uganda on the trip.

“I look forward to my visit in Africa. If I could, I’d like to visit every one of your countries,” he told the foreign envoys.

Islamic terrorism is the world’s greatest challenge, and it threatens the entire African continent, Netanyahu said. Its nexus is in the Middle East but it is rapidly spreading, he said, adding, “It can be stopped if nations threatened by it make common cause.” Israel is willing to help Africa defeat Islamic terrorism, he vowed.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a conference on Israeli-African relations, organized by Likud parliament member Avraham Negusie (in cap), at the Knesset on February 29, 2016. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

The Jewish state is furthermore ready to assist Africa in the areas of health, science, agriculture, tourism, science and cyber technology, Netanyahu said. Any country can be brought to its knees without cyber-security, but Israel is now a “world power in cyber-security,” he added.

Also speaking Monday at the launch of a new Israel-Africa caucus, Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein mentioned that ties with the continent have been an Israeli priority since the 1960s.

“Over the years there were better and worse periods. What we see in the last several years is a revival and renewal of our relations,” he said. “We have a lot to offer and a lot to learn.”

Likud MK Avraham Neguise (Government Press Office)

The Ethiopian-born MK Avraham Neguise, who chairs the new caucus, quoted Zionist visionary Theodor Herzl as saying that once he witnessed the Jewish people’s redemption he would like to see the same for Africans.

“The Jewish people and the people of Africa have a sense of sharing a common destiny. Both have suffered from discrimination and foreign rule. In this way both nations are united by a common historical struggle against colonization. This struggle can bring us together,” he said.

Ari Solomon contributed to this report.

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