Prime Minister Netanyahu (bottom right) attends a conference on Israeli-African relations at the Knesset Monday. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Uhuru Kenyatta and Netanyahu

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem. (AP)

“Israel is coming back to Africa, and Africa is coming back to Israel,” Netanyahu told visiting African ambassadors at the launch of a new caucus for Israel-Africa relations.

The Knesset launched its caucus for Israel-Africa relations on Monday – an initiative led by Member of Knesset Avraham Naguise (Likud), the only Knesset member to have immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at the event with African ambassadors about the importance of a very close bilateral relationship between Israel and Africa.

“Israel is coming back to Africa, and Africa is coming back to Israel,” said Netanyahu. “It’s happening now because it’s so clear that this is good for Africa and it’s good for Israel.”

Netanyahu stressed that Israel and Africa have shared interests and should therefore improve relations on that basis.

Knesset Member Avraham Neguise

Knesset Member Avraham Neguise initiated the new caucus on Africa -Israel cooperation. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“I have no doubt whatsoever that today the interests of Africa and the interests of Israel cohere,” the prime minister stated. “They’re almost identical, and in some respects and in many respects they are identical.”

Netanyahu claimed that the mutual interests involve challenges and opportunities common to both Israel and Africa such as overcoming the forces of militant Islamic terrorism and seizing the technological opportunities of the future. He also expressed his desire for Israel and Africa to act together in global organizations such as the UN.

“What I’d like to see is the closeness of our relationship reflected also in the voting pattern of the African Union,” Netanyahu told the African ambassadors. “You should vote for the interests of your own countries and you should vote for the interests of Africa. I wish to see that reflected in our bilateral relationship and also in our multilateral relationship.”

Common Threat of Islamic Terror

The challenge of militant Islam, which Israel has faced for a number of years, has also become a recent phenomenon throughout Africa in the years following the Arab Spring in 2011. Netanyahu made it clear that Israel would provide support in combating Islamist terror groups.

“We understand the dangers of Al-Shabab,” Netanyahu said about the East African terrorist group. “We understand the dangers of the other militancies that threaten your countries in Africa, and we are prepared to work with you to defeat them.”

Just last week, Netanyahu welcomed Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta to Israel on Tuesday in the first state visit by a Kenyan president to the Jewish state in over two decades, affirming the close relations between the two countries. In that meeting, too, he discussed the issue of Islamic terror.

Israeli Expertise in Agriculture and Cyber Security

Israel has helped Africa technologically in a number of sectors and in the agricultural sector in particular by introducing techniques such as drip irrigation, which is especially useful in arid climates.

“Israel is now a world power in cyber security and my policy is to make some of our experience available to our friends,” the prime minister continued. “We consider you great friends.”

Netanyahu also committed to making frequent visits to Africa, telling the ambassadors that “for too long you have come here and we have not come there, and we are going to change that.”

By: Jonathan Benedek/TPS