“Despite a perception by many in Israel of growing international isolation, Israel has many friends in Africa, Kenya’s Foreign Minister Amina Mohammed said on Wednesday.
“Israel ‘has more friends than not on the continent,’ Mohammed, accompanying Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on a three-day trip to Israel, told the Jerusalem Post. ‘I was counting the countries, and maybe 40 out of 54 see Israel as a very close friend.’”
Mohammed was then asked what it means that there is friendship, but African states generally vote against Israel in international forums. Her response was not quite satisfactory:
Gaging friendship just by voting patterns is “too one dimensional. There are a lot of things happening on the continent for Israel. Just look at the economic activities.” In addition, she noted that “it is very difficult to break the African [voting] bloc.
But if 40 African countries think of Israel as “a very close friend,” why is the bloc not pro-Israel?
Prime Minister Netanyahu has been speaking of late of how we need to ask (demand?) of countries that have quiet positive connections with us that they stand with Israel in public forums as well. And he is absolutely right. It’s too easy, for these countries to accept our technological support, our advice on terrorism, whatever, and then stand against us publicly because it’s the politically correct thing to do.
Mohammed acknowledged that Israel has helped Kenya in its fight against an al-Qaida affiliate. In addition: “We have been collaborating, we have been learning from you.”
What I see is that we are going in the right direction – without question! – but that we’re not yet where we need to be.
Mohammed did comment that changing the voting patterns in Africa requires engaging “as many Africans as possible…High level visits bring their own wind with them.” Israel is doing that, she observed. In fact, Netanyahu hopes to visit Kenya and Uganda this summer, when he commemorates the 40th anniversary of the Entebbe raid (in which his brother Yonatan lost his life).
The last time a sitting Israeli prime minister visited Africa was Yitzhak Shamir in 1987. Years ago Israel had a very positive relationship with many African nations, and then Arab/Muslim politics intervened – which goes a long way to explaining why the African bloc does not vote pro-Israel. We are now in process of reversing the situation.
A European country that is considered a friend is Bulgaria, which often stands for Israel in the EU. Bulgaria is an historic rival of Turkey, and has drawn closer yet to Israel since the breakdown of the relationship between Israel and Turkey. (This is a silver lining in the dark cloud of our tensions with Turkey, and follows the pattern of our enhanced relationship with Greece and Cyprus.)
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov was here for a visit on Wednesday and Thursday, and met with Prime Minister Netanyahu. Focus of the meeting reportedly was on regional security, energy and trade.
Egypt had not had a full ambassador here in Israel since 2012, but now one has arrived – this is the mark of warming relations between Egypt and Israel. On Thursday, Ambassador Hazem Ahdy Khairat presented his credentials to President Ruby Rivlin (on right, below).
While part of the ceremony involving a toast was held behind closed doors at Egypt’s request, Rivlin did say:
“We live together in a difficult region. We have found a way to live together in peace and friendship. This is a message to the whole region, and the whole world.”
What is more, Rivlin reported that Ambassador Khairat said he was “very happy and proud” to be in Israel.
And across the border…
“Israeli Ambassador to Egypt Haim Koren gave a rare interview to Egyptian journalists in his residence in Cairo on Tuesday, and surprisingly, the transcript of the interview was published, and what’s more, the journalists were not afraid to expose the fact that they had spoken to the representative from Israel.
“On the Israeli Embassy in Egypt’s Facebook page, the entire transcript was published next to a picture of Ambassador Koren with the flags of both Israel and Egypt.
“’We respect the President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, because he is an open president who is interested in bringing stability to the region,’…Koren said to journalists.”
With regard to our relationship with Egypt, then, as well, we are obviously making very solid progress, but not quite where we would some day hope to be.
Egyptian parliamentarian – and controversial TV host –Tawfik Okasha invited Ambassador Koren to his home for dinner during a public broadcast, and, indeed, the two met at Okasha’s home on Tuesday; they reportedly discussed a variety of political issues.
Now according to various reports, Okasha (at right below) is being roundly criticized in social media and by some fellow parliamentarians.
We’re seeing here some brave steps by specific leaders and journalists in Egypt, with many, who have been fed on hatred for Israel for a long time, lagging behind. Little by little.
Over in Great Britain, the leadership, which professes great friendship for Israel, is disappointing:
On Wednesday evening, British Prime Minister David Cameron, while answering a question from a parliamentarian in the House of Commons, declared that the situation in Jerusalem was “genuinely shocking.”: for on a visit he had seen the “effective encirclement of East Jerusalem, occupied East Jerusalem…”
Presumably, Cameron expects “East Jerusalem” to be the capital of a “Palestinian State” some day. But I have a big flash for the prime minister:
It does not matter what fabrications the Palestinian Arabs feed him, there is no “East” Jerusalem. There is only an eastern section of a united Jerusalem, which is the capital of Israel. On July 30, 1980, the Knesset passed into Basic Law: Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel.
From the time that David established Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, over 3,000 years ago, until this day, Jerusalem has never the capital of any nation other than Israel. And it never will be.
Jerusalem was divided only once, for 19 years, from the War of Independence in 1948 until the Six Day War of 1967. During that period, Jordan, which occupied the eastern part of the city illegally, rendered it Judenrein, in spite of the fact that the holiest Jewish sites were in that part of the city. Jordan had committed to allowing Jewish access to those sites – most notably the Kotel – but instead went about destroying synagogues and desecrating the cemetery.
Because Jews were banished from the eastern part of the city, when Israel liberated it in 1967, it contained only Arab neighborhoods. Thus did it become known as the “Arab” part of Jerusalem. But this is no longer the case. In some instances new neighborhoods have been constructed. In other instances, Jews have bought and moved into homes that had originally been Jewish but then taken over by Arabs in 1948. (The Silwan area is a case in point.)
People who are promoting that “two state solution” envision drawing a line down the middle of Jerusalem and separating it into Jewish and Arab sections. The reality is quite different, however, as Jews now also live in the eastern part of the city, as they have every right to do. There is no way to divide the city. Cameron’s call of distress about a ring of Jewish neighborhoods surrounding “Arab” Jerusalem is simply misinformed nonsense.
Take a look at the map below and you will see that the Mount of Olives is in a predominantly Arab neighborhood. But on that Mount is the oldest Jewish cemetery in the world, containing over 150,000 graves – including graves of some people of astounding significance to Jewish history. When it was under Jordanian control, tombstones were lifted to use in constructing latrines. Should it be a part of a separate “Arab” Jerusalem? Should the Old City?
Credit: Elder of Ziyon
Prime Minister Netanyahu, in response to Cameron’s comments, pointed out that:
“Only Israeli sovereignty prevents Islamic State and Hamas from setting aflame the holy places in the city, as they are doing across the Middle East…“only Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem ensures the rule of law for Arab residents and for all.”
This discussion leads me to another, regarding our claim to the Golan Heights. On December 14, 1981, the Knesset passed the Golan Heights Law:
“The Law, jurisdiction and administration of the state shall apply to the Golan Heights.” (The term annexation was never used.)
This is almost 35 years ago. In the interim, there have been several times when the notion of relinquishing the Heights to Syria as part of a peace treaty was advanced. Thank Heaven, that never went any where. But for the duration, most of the world has continued to consider the Israeli Golan as illegally occupied.
Now a new situation has developed, as Syria, which claims rights to the Golan, no longer exists as a sovereign nation. It is thoroughly, and painfully, and irrevocably disintegrated. Thus it is being suggested that it is time to declare the Golan Israeli according to international law. David Weinberg, writing in Friday’s JPost, cites Prof. Peter Berkowitz (all emphasis following is added):
“The chaos in Syria has weighty legal and political ramifications that should impel the international community to revise its understanding of the Golan’s status.
“…few informed observers think that a functioning nation-state can be reconstructed out of the warring Alawite, Shia, Sunni, Kurd and Druse factions into which Syria has collapsed. “
The question then is “what happens when the party with the claim favored by international law disintegrates?“
Says Berkowitz, “Syria’s disintegration renders title over the Golan equivocal, while Israel can claim a right under the principle of effective occupation.”
Weinberg observes that “territory can be acquired through the exercise of sovereign power on a peaceful and extended basis…Israel has exercised authority in a manner that suits all the residents of the territory.
“Moreover, public international law favors stability, order and peace; it aims to avoid resolutions that expose people to death or injury. Accordingly, it should prefer Israeli sovereignty over the Golan to the grim alternatives for the Golan Druse.”
On Wednesday, Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior Hamas leader met with members of the Foreign Press Association in Gaza and declared that:
“I think no one here in the region is looking for a war.” The tunnels they are building, he explained, are defensive in nature: “We are not looking for any confrontation with Israel, but if they are going to launch an aggression we have to defend ourselves.”
Possible translation: We know Israeli is fed up with us and thinking of a preemptive attack because of the tunnels we’re building, so we want to make it clear to the world that we are innocent.
Second translation: We’re preparing those tunnels for the day when we do want to attack Israel, but it will be at a time of our choosing and we’re not interested now. In point of fact, I have read Israeli security assessments that Hamas is not ready for war now.
On the very same day, that Al-Zahar made this statement, Netanyahu met with leadership from Jewish communities in the south near Gaza. He assured them that progress was being made on developing a system to locate those tunnels. We’ve been hearing this for some time now. Let it be a reality.
Always and ever, painful:
Credit: Hagar Amibar/Israel Air Force
Eliav Gelman, 30, a reserve Israeli Air Force captain was killed Wednesday by errant IDF gunfire during a Palestinian stabbing attack at the Etzion Junction.
He was on his way home from his base when attacked. Waiting at a bus stop, he was knifed by an Arab terrorist; nearby soldiers shot at the terrorist, but one or more bullets struck him.
The father of two young boys, ages 2 and 5, he lived with his family in Karmei Tzur in the Etzion bloc. His wife is eight months pregnant.
He was buried Wednesday night at the Kfar Etzion cemetery, with thousands in attendance.
His brother described him as “loved and loving, he was connected to the people of Israel, the land of Israel, the Torah of Israel.”
A security guard who was attacked with an ax is in intensive care. The attack took place at the mall in Ma’ale Adumim, east of Jerusalem. As I write, the assailant is still at large.
I will end today with a rendition of by IDF Chief Cantor Shai Abramson of Shir HaMa’alot (Song of Ascents), Psalm 126.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.