Israel Returns to Africa

Sept. 2 2021

Prior to 1967, Jerusalem had diplomatic relations with over 30 African nations; in the 1970s, that number fell to merely three. But in recent years, the Jewish state has been gradually restoring its ties to the continent—fulfilling the visions of Golda Meir and Theodor Herzl. A major step forward occurred in July, when Israel was given observer status in the African Union (AU). J. Peter Pham writes:

Currently, of the 55 members of the African Union, 46 have diplomatic relations with Israel, the most recent diplomatic ties being with Sudan and Morocco, achieved in the framework of the Abraham Accords brokered by the U.S. during the Trump administration.

For years, Benjamin Netanyahu lobbied to get Israel back into the AU as an observer, although the step was only achieved after he had been replaced as prime minister by Naftali Bennett. Even with the break in bilateral relations with many African states following the Yom Kippur War, Israel had maintained its status as an observer with the AU’s predecessor, the Organization of African Unity (OAU). However, when the OAU was dissolved and replaced by the more robust AU in 2002, the late Libyan dictator Moammar Ghadaffi, who was one of the driving forces behind the establishment of the new organization, . . . used his influence to prevent the status from carrying over.

In contrast, “Palestine” was admitted as an observer in 2013, resulting, on occasion, in anti-Israel resolutions being introduced without Israeli representatives being able to respond.

It is perhaps not surprising that the return of Israel to the AU comes in the midst of the term of the president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Félix Tshisekedi, as head of the African Union. Last year, addressing the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Washington, Tshisekedi . . . explained his deep regard for Israel: “This nation is a source of inspiration. It teaches us what man can do in such a short span of time when he has drive, resilience, and, especially, divine grace and favor.”

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: Abraham Accords, Africa, Israel diplomacy, Libya

When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount