Arye Oded. 2018. Africa and Israel: A Unique Case in Israeli Foreign Relations

By Munyi, Elijah N. | African Studies Quarterly, February 2019 | Go to article overview

Arye Oded. 2018. Africa and Israel: A Unique Case in Israeli Foreign Relations


Munyi, Elijah N., African Studies Quarterly


Arye Oded. 2018. Africa and Israel: A Unique Case in Israeli Foreign Relations. Portland: Valentine Mitchell. 399 pp.

In the summer of 2016, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in Africa visiting Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and Ethiopia, four countries seen as friendliest to Israel. In the summer of 2017, Netanyahu was once again in Africa, as a special guest and speaker at the 51st summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). In 2017, Netanyahu was to grace the inaugural Africa-Israeli summit in Togo which failed, but the brazen Prime Minister still procured a joint meeting with ten African heads of governments in Nairobi on the sidelines of Kenya's Uhuru Kenyatta's swearing ceremony in November. Why is Israel so keen on Africa? Arye Oded's very readable book is an attempt to answer this question and others by tracing the crests and troughs of Israeli-Africa relations starting from the late 1950s to the present (2016) flurry of the Israel's "return to."

As with his foundational 2010 article on the same subject, the book takes a historical approach dividing the seventy or so years into three epochs; the honeymoon years (1950s-1973), the disengagement years (1973-1983), and the return to Africa years (1983-the present). As clearly brought out in Africa and Israel, the principal objectives of Israeli diplomacy in Africa has been to win African leaders' hearts on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, particularly at the African Union as well as to counter anti-Israeli bias in national outlook and multilateral institutions. In the honeymoon era, Prime Minister Golda Meir is the star of Israeli diplomacy making five trips to Africa between 1958 and 1964. She propounds a veritable diplomatic rationale for close relations as follows: Africa and Israel shared the bonds of historical victimhood. If Africa was sympathetic to Israel's vulnerable position with regard to the Israeli-Arab conflict, then Israel would provide African states with the technical aid needed to build their new states. Through scholarships, agricultural training and military assistance, PM Meir sets up the modus operandi of Israel-Africa development cooperation and by 1972 Israel had thirty-two embassies in Africa.

The book is remarkably because in documenting the history of Israeli-Africa relations, it brilliantly captures Africa's own internal struggles and disillusionments with the Arab-Israeli conflict and gives fascinating flickers of African agency in attempting to resolve the Israeli-Arab conflicts such as the pioneering but now forgotten 1967 "Ten Sages" Organization of African Unity (OAU) attempt to resolve the Israeli-Egypt conflict. …

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