Palestinians slam Kenyan president for visiting Western Wall, West Bank

Hanan Ashwari says complaint to African Union planned after Kenyatta skips Palestinian towns; Israel: This is ‘utter rubbish’

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta (L) shakes hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as they deliver joint statements in Jerusalem on February 23, 2016. (AMIR COHEN / POOL / AFP)
Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta (L) shakes hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as they deliver joint statements in Jerusalem on February 23, 2016. (AMIR COHEN / POOL / AFP)

Palestinian officials on Thursday criticized the Kenyan president for visiting the Western Wall, East Jerusalem and a kibbutz on the Dead Sea in the West Bank.

On his first official visit this week, Uhuru Kenyatta met with Kenyan students who are participating in an irrigation training program at Kibbutz Kalia, on the Dead Sea, went to Atarot in East Jerusalem, and visited the Western Wall.

In response, Hanan Ashrawi of the Palestinian National Council said Thursday there is a plan to complain to regional organizations, including the African Union, about the visit. The Palestinians were also upset Kenyatta did not visit any Palestinian city.

Israel, however, dismissed the complaint as “utter rubbish.”

“The Palestinian claims are utter rubbish and nonsense. The visit was in Jerusalem, the eternal and united capital of the State of Israel,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon told The Times of Israel.

Kenyatta’s spokesman could not immediately be reached.

Army Radio reported earlier in the week that Kenyatta was invited to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, but that Israel could not coordinate what it said was a last-minute request, and thus the meet did not go ahead. The radio report said the Kenyan delegation was unhappy about this.

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

Following a private talk, their delegations were invited to an expanded meeting to discuss security and the fight against terrorism as well as bilateral cooperation on a range of issues including: cyber, energy, agriculture, water, irrigation and public health.

Netanyahu said Kenya and Israel have had a close relationship for decades, remarking that Uhuru’s father, Jomo Kenyatta, demonstrated that friendship in helping Israel rescue its hostages during the raid in Entebbe, Uganda, in 1976.

“This is something that has left a deep imprint on Israel. The people of Israel are grateful for that. And I’m personally grateful for that.

“Israel is willing and prepared to work with African countries in our common battle against militant Islamic terrorism,” Netanyahu said as he went into talks with Kenyatta.

Israel also agreed to consider a proposal to bring in more Kenyan workers, The Daily Nation reported. Kenya’s ambassador to Israel, Agostino Njoroge, told the publication that the number of Kenyan workers in Israel has dropped to 200 from 2,000 in the past 10 years as a result of Israel’s tougher immigration laws and security concerns.

Kenya is seeking an agreement to have recruitment agencies contract Kenyan workers for short stints in the Jewish state and also wants to increase the number of Kenyan students undergoing agricultural training in Israel.

The Daily Nation said the Israeli government is funding free training for 100 Kenyans in irrigation engineering in Israel.

Ari Solomon and JTA contributed to this report.

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