The trip by Israeli PM Netanyahu last week to four East African countries, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia, has a great deal of resonance. It recreates the friendships that was fostered by the Golda Meir Government back in the 1970’s between Israel and African countries. In my previous commentary, I noted the commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the Entebbe incident, in which Israeli paratroopers successfully rescued 100 Israeli/Jewish hostages from Palestinian terrorists who had hijacked a plane and during which Bibi Netanyahu’s older brother Yonathan, the leader of the raid, was the only casualty.
In Kenya, he met with Pres. Uhuru Kenyatta, and the visit was very friendly since Israel and Kenya have had good ties for many years. Most notably Kenya is under attack from the Somali terrorists of Al Shabab, and Israel agreed to help Kenya foil their attacks, possibly by building a security fence along the Kenya-Somali border. In Rwanda the relationship was cemented by the similarity of the genocide that the Tutsi people suffered in the 1990’s when Hutu militias slaughtered ca. 1 million of them. Netanyahu noted the similarity of this genocide to that the Jewish people suffered in the Shoah (Holocaust). In Ethiopia, Netanyahu addressed the Parliament, a very different situation than years before when the Communist regime was anti-Israel and supported Palestinian terrorism against Israel. Now there is a point of pride that Israel has a large minority of Ethiopian Jews who have emigrated here, and this provides a physical and linguistic link between the two countries. During his visit Netanyahu also held secret talks with the leader of one of Africa’s Muslim countries.
During his visit to Uganda, Netanyahu met with the Heads of 7 African countries, the four he visited plus South Sudan, Zambia and Tanzania. While South Sudan, a new country in Africa torn by civil strife, owes a lot to Israel for its existence, both Zambia and Tanzania were among the most anti-Israel countries in Africa during their revolutionary periods. Now they have evolved into relatively peaceful states, seeking development more that political opportunism. With these Heads of State Netanyahu discussed trade and support. Israel is renowned in Africa not for giving aid in the form of money, most of which is stolen by corrupt officials (as it is in the Palestine Authority), but for providing practical hands-on aid that benefits local people, especially in agriculture (irrigation and water economy, automated milk production) hygiene and medical support (including the building of temporary hospitals). Israel now is a high tech super-power compared to the African countries and can also help them with technological development as well as defense/military and security assistance.
Conspicuous by its absence in all of these talks was any reference to the so-called “Palestine question.” No-one even mentioned “occupation,” “settlements,” or the non–existent “peace process.” What a relief from the usual, international meetings with the EU, European countries or the US, where Netanyahu is continually talked down to and lectured by self-righteous ignoramuses pushing their politically correct agenda. And the main reason why Israel is going out now to win friends and influence nations is that the US under Pres. Obama has failed to do its job in leading the free world. There is no American leadership, no sense of an American presence that produces security and cohesiveness and this leads to a power vacuum, that others are filling. The others include Iran, Russia and in this case also Israel. I predict that Israel will grow from strength to strength while the EU flounders in its own political inconsistencies.