Netanyahu’s romance with Africa to heat up at the UN in September
JERUSALEM POST – In an effort to keep alive the momentum in strengthening Israel’s ties with Africa, an event between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a number of African leaders is being planned at the UN General Assembly in September, Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said on Monday.
Danon is in the country for a few days leading a group of some 12 ambassadors to the UN from a variety of countries.
The trip is sponsored by the American Jewish Committee’s Project Interchange in cooperation with the Israeli mission at the UN.
Among the ambassadors are three African envoys: from Equatorial Guinea, Tanzania and Liberia.
Danon said Equatorial Guinea is expected to replace Egypt as the African representative on the UN Security Council in 2018-2019.
He added that the current strengthening of ties between Israel and Africa is also being felt at the UN, where he is meeting and taking part in joint programs with many of his African colleagues.
One of the key benefits about bringing these types of groups to the country, Danon said, is that it enables the development of personal relationships, and these relationships have an impact on policy at the UN.
Not all countries at the UN get directives on how to vote from their capitals, Danon said. “Sometimes the ambassadors of small countries decide on their own. There are some who were once foreign ministers, who have the status of being able to determine policy.”
In addition to the three African countries, the group – the largest of its kind to visit Israel – includes the ambassadors from Panama, the Marshall Islands, Moldova, Tanzania, Serbia, Palau, Uruguay, Thailand and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Uruguay is currently on the Security Council, and the Marshall Islands and Palau – two island countries in the Pacific – generally follow the US and vote with Israel in the UN.
“The aim of the trip is to get them to understand the issues better,” Danon said. “We want them to see what the security challenges are, so when these issues come to the UN they will understand them.”
Danon said that changes in voting patterns will not happen overnight, and characterized diplomacy as “a marathon, not a knockout punch.” But these types of trips, he said, are very effective in presenting the information.
“There is nothing like a visit to Israel to understand the issues,” he said.
In addition, Danon said, the trip exposes the ambassadors to “the other side of Israel – to Israeli technology, initiative and agriculture.
We are happy to share that information with other countries.”
The group arrived Sunday evening and will leave Thursday. On Monday they ate at the Max Brenner Restaurant at he Sarona Market in Tel Aviv, the site of the terrorist attack there in June.
The choice of the locale was not accidental, Danon said. “We wanted to show them how life goes on, the dynamics of Tel Aviv, and the challenges we face.”
On Monday afternoon, eight delegation participants visited the Agricultural Research Organization’s Volcani Center, where they learned about Israel’s advances in mango, wheat and chickpea cultivation.
In the mango department, the group learned about Israel’s particularly high fruit yields and long shelf life. They discussed “Ruta” wheat – a whole grain wheat that is white in color – and heard about efforts to bring green and black-colored chickpeas to Israel.
Prof. Itamar Glazer, the deputy director for research and development at the Agricultural Research Organization, stressed the importance of exposing the delegates from so many different countries to Israel’s agricultural innovations.
“The State of Israel may be small, but it can certainly increase its impact through the commercialization of agricultural knowledge and providing information as part of agreements with different countries,” Glazer said. “Every country in the world needs agricultural knowledge and this is a good basis for creating international cooperation.”
Before leaving, the group will take a helicopter tour of the country’s borders, visit the Gaza border region, visit a water desalination facility in Ashkelon, receive a briefing on the Lebanon border, and visit wounded Syrians who are being treated at the Ziv Medical Center in Safed. Efforts are also being made to organize a meeting with Netanyahu.
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