“African countries are not rich, but their votes in international forums and institutions are equivalent in value to those of the most powerful countries.”
This is how David Ben-Gurion, the first Israeli prime minister, explained the importance of Africa to his country. Because it has the largest voting bloc in the world (54 countries), and thus the Arabs also realized the importance of Africans. Due to considerations of the voting bloc and geographical proximity with us.
Therefore, Africa became one of the circles of the Arab-Israeli conflict, as each party sought to attract it to confront the other party, and also tried to make the emotional entrance one of the areas of reaching the heart of the continent.
Therefore, the question becomes: Who will Africa side with in the “Al-Aqsa Flood” operation, and what about its previous positions and biases, and what are the considerations that affect its positions in siding with the Arab, Palestinian or Israeli side?
The emotional approach to Africa
To begin with, it can be said that Israel’s interest in the African continent is not a spur of the moment, but rather goes back to before the establishment of Israel, specifically the time of thinking at the Basel Conference of 1897, where Uganda was one of the alternatives proposed at the time, to be a homeland for the Jews, but Palestine was preferred. Claiming that it was the Promised Land, the Zionist movement nevertheless worked to win the love of the Africans and liken the relationship of their return to Palestine to the return of the Africans liberated from the New World to the continent again after a period of exclusion and enslavement at the hands of colonialism. The idea of return and unity or the African University, of which Marcus was one of its founders, was also likened. Garvey and others called for the return of the Jews to the Promised Land, and they called the Pan-Africanist movement “Black Zionism.”
On the other hand, the Arab countries focused on the idea of unity of destiny, and the importance of the Arab-African partnership in the liberation of the countries of the continent from foreign colonialism, as well as the liberation of some Arab countries from the Israeli occupation of some or all of their lands.
Arab successes “historically” in Africa
It was one of the fruits of Arab-African cooperation that the majority of African member states of the Organization of African Unity at the time (50 out of 53 countries) severed their relations with Israel after the 1973 war. This was followed two years by the important decision of the Organization of African Unity at its session held in Kampala on July 28, 1975, to grant equality Zionism is linked to racism, and African countries contributed by a large majority to the issuance of a resolution by the United Nations General Assembly considering Zionism a form of racism in November 1975. The matter was not limited to that, as immediately after the Palestinian National Council announced the establishment of the State of Palestine in 1988, the issue was raised To vote in the United Nations, 104 countries approved it, including 35 African countries, but the decision was then rejected by the Security Council due to the American veto.
Arab setbacks after the Madrid Peace Conference
This Arab-African rapprochement witnessed two setbacks that paved the way for Israel’s entry into the continent at the expense of the Arabs: the signing of the peace agreement between Egypt and Israel in 1979, and then the Madrid Peace Revival Conference in 1991, which is considered the beginning of the African rush towards Israel. One of the fruits of this rapprochement was the success of the United States in the same year in passing the resolution to abolish the equation of Zionism with racism in December 1991, after exerting pressure on member states and exploiting the collapse of the Soviet Union (the Eastern Bloc).
This Arab-African divergence can be felt in several indicators contained in the report of the Committee of Arab Experts on the reality and strategy of Arab-African cooperation (November 11-14, 2001), where the report recorded the presence of some negative points in this relationship. Politically, there was an absence of coordination in international forums, as happened. In both the Durban Conference to Combat Racism (South Africa) and the World Trade Organization Conference (Qatar – November 2001), the committee also recorded the absence of Arab interest in important issues in Africa, such as: issues of security and stability. Economically, the report recorded a decline in intra-regional trade and a decline in The volume of mutual investments, and the result of this was a long lapse that lasted more than 33 years between the two summits: the first Arab-African summit, “Cairo 1977,” and the second, “Sirte 2010.” The Arab-African countries were also preoccupied after that with the events of the Arab Spring and the Arab-Arab disputes, as happened. At the Fourth Arab-African Summit hosted by Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea, in 2016, talk about the Palestine issue declined, and preoccupation with other issues, including, for example, the position regarding the “Sahrawi Republic,” which witnessed an Arab-Arab division; Due to the presence of the delegation of the so-called “Sahrawi Republic”, which Egypt supported and the Gulf states opposed, which resulted in the withdrawal of many delegations from the summit.
Successful Israeli penetration into the continent
This Arab self-sufficiency, the preoccupation of many Arab countries with the Arab Spring, the counter-revolutions that followed, and the wars in Yemen, Syria, and Libya, and the resulting absence of a collective Arab orientation towards Africa, and the absence of a plan to limit Israeli influence on the continent, all of this played into the interest of Israel, which worked to expand in this large African ocean.
Therefore, it was not surprising that in the same year in which the Malabo Summit was held, Israel succeeded, in March 2016, in launching the Israeli-African lobby to protect the interests of both parties, especially in international forums. Prime Minister Netanyahu did not hide his goal at the time, which was to confront the Arab party and any attempts to condemn Israel in international forums, as he told the African ambassadors accredited to Tel Aviv: “I am aware that the representatives of your countries will vote in international forums in line with the interests of Africa, and I see “Israel’s interests and Africa’s interests are almost identical, which means that a vote for Israel is necessarily a vote for Africa.” Only three months after this inauguration, Netanyahu became the first Israeli prime minister to visit the continent in decades, as he visited four Nile countries: “Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, and Ethiopia,” which are countries that fall specifically within the scope of the Egyptian National Security Department. The most important qualitative shift occurred in June. June 2016, when Netanyahu was hosted in Liberia (West Africa), and he was the first non-African head of government to participate in the summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which includes 15 countries, and constitutes a point of contact and support for the North African countries, and includes countries with an Islamic majority, Members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, led by Nigeria, where Netanyahu announced before the summit that “Israel will provide one billion dollars to the organization in the next four years, to develop green energy projects in member states, in exchange for these countries not taking positions against Israel.”
One of the fruits of this expansion was the increase in the number of African countries that have diplomatic relations with Israel to 48 countries after normalization with: Guinea in 2016, Chad in 2019, then Morocco and finally Sudan, compared to 7 countries that do not have a relationship with Israel, 5 of which are Arab. They are: Somalia, Djibouti, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and two in West Africa: Mali and Niger. “The first severed its relations with Israel after the 1973 war, while the second severed relations in 2002 after the Israeli invasion of the West Bank.”
Israel is an observer member of the African Union
This Israeli penetration prompted Tel Aviv to try to establish it officially by submitting a request in July 2021 to obtain observer status in the African Union, and despite the approval of the head of the Commission, Moussa Faki – “in sympathy with her” – to the request, it was rejected by Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. Algeria and Mauritania, meaning North African countries with the exception of Morocco, in addition to the Comoros, Djibouti, and South Africa. Consequently, the matter was suspended during the 2022 summit, and a committee was formed to decide on the issue of withdrawing this status. The matter was renewed at the last summit in February 2023 after the refusal of an Israeli diplomat to attend. Summit meetings, where she was expelled from the hall. However, the issue has not been resolved until this moment, amid a state of division within the African institution, but on the other hand, the same summit affirmed, in its final statement, the centrality of the just cause of Palestine, the consistency of the position in support of it and its decisions in international forums, and support for President Mahmoud Abbas’s peace initiative. And his call on the Secretary-General of the United Nations to develop an international plan to end the occupation of the land of the State of Palestine, while welcoming the adoption by the United Nations General Assembly at its 77th session last year, “a request for an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on the nature of the presence of the Israeli colonial occupation on the land of the State of Palestine and the consequences of this.” existence and the illegal practices associated with it.”
Africa and the “Al-Aqsa Flood”
With the start of the “Al-Aqsa Flood” operation, Musa Faki was keen to issue a statement that took into account the general trend prevailing in the countries of the continent, as he pointed out that the denial of the basic rights of the Palestinian people, especially their rights to establish an independent, sovereign Palestinian state, is the main reason for Israeli tension. The Permanent Palestinian Authority called on both parties to put an end to the military hostilities and to return unconditionally to the negotiating table to implement the principle of the two-state solution.
Thus, Africa is trying to hold the stick in the middle, with regard to the Arab-Israeli conflict. It supports the principle of the two-state solution, but in return it refuses to take any escalatory measures regarding Israel, such as cutting off diplomatic relations with it, or even reducing them. “Maybe South Africa is an exception to that.” Because of the historical circumstances it went through during the apartheid regime.” This African position is due to its unwillingness to be more royal than the king,” referring to Arab normalization with Israel. But the final question remains: Will the fifth Arab-African summit, hosted by Riyadh next month, succeed in bringing about further rapprochement, and make Africans more biased towards the Arabs at the expense of Israel and take collective decisions in this regard, and will we find an echo of this potential rapprochement in the Africans’ refusal to accept grants? Is Israel observer status in the African Union? Or will the Riyadh summit be a “protocol” like other previous summits?