Israel's Foreign Ministry announced Thursday that the country will be joining the African Union (AU) as an observer state.
Israeli Ambassador to Ethiopia, Burundi, and Chad Aleli Admasu presented his credentials to the AU Chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat.
Israel enjoyed observer status in the predecessor Organization of African Unity until 2002 when it was expelled for its policy against Palestinians during the second intifada.
The former Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has refocused his efforts to rejoin the Union and prioritized Israel’s relations with Africa during the latter half of his 12 years in office.
Besides seeking new markets for Israeli agriculture, high-tech, and security, the former prime minister was eager to improve African nations’ voting record on Israel-related matters in international forums such as the United Nations Security Council and UNESCO.
In July 2016, Netanyahu became the first Israeli premier in decades to travel to the continent when he visited four East African nations: Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, and Ethiopia.
In December of that year, Jerusalem hosted seven ministers and many other top officials from over 12 Western African countries at an agricultural conference in Israel, co-sponsored by ECOWAS and Mashav, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation.
In June 2017, Netanyahu attended the annual conference by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), an organization that includes 15 nations with a combined population of some 320 million.
He was invited to the 51st Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Community in Monrovia, Liberia’s capital city.
“Israel is returning to Africa in a big way,” Netanyahu said before the trip.
Israel has relations with 46 of the 55 AU member states. Israel re-established ties with Guinea in 2016 and with Chad in 2019. Sudan proceeded to normalize relations with Israel after the Abraham Accords.
Foreign Minister, Yair Lapid, sent the Deputy Director-General of the Ministry, Aliza Ben-Nun, to Addis Ababa, where she met the ambassadors of 30 AU members and asked for their support for Israel as an observer member.
“This is a day of celebration for Israel-Africa relations,” said Lapid, adding that this diplomatic achievement resulted from efforts by the Foreign Ministry, the African Division, and Israeli embassies on the continent.
“This corrects the anomaly that existed for almost two decades,” he continued, “and is an important part of the strengthening of the fabric of Israel’s foreign relations. This will help us strengthen our activities in the continent and the organization’s member states.”