Israel's Diplomatic Offensive in Africa
Observatoire of Arab-Muslim World and Sahel
Alhadji Bouba Nouhou, December 21, 2018
The tour initiated by Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu in Africa in 2016 and his participation at the June 2017 51st summit of the Economic Community of States of West Africa (ECOWAS) in Monrovia marked the return of Israel to the African continent.
For two years, and, despite the failure of the Israel-Africa summit of Lomé (Togo) in 2017, Israel offers to Africa’s capitals its services in all domains (agribusiness, energy, security, telephony) and intends to strengthen its presence on the continent by considering the closure of some diplomatic representations abroad in the next three years (Paraguay, Belarus, Dominican Republic, Ireland, Israel’s consulate in Atlanta and Latvia)http://www.i24news.tv/fr/actu/israel/diplomatie-defense/165017-180112-i… (consulted on January 13, 2018). in order to open new ones in Africa. Beyond traditional economic and security cooperation with African chancelleries, Tel Aviv seeks to secure African votes in the United Nations concerning the Palestinian issue. Long considered as an insurmountable disagreement between Israel and Africa, the fate of the Palestinian territories is no longer viewed by African chancelleries from the angle of national liberation. The Palestinian Authority is gradually perceived as an authority like any other. This inflection of the position of African capitals regarding the Palestinian issue had already begun after the evacuation of Sinai in 1982 following the signing of peace agreements between Egypt and Israel at Camp David in 1978, and further increased after the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993 between Israelis and Palestinians.
However, Tel Aviv wishes also to create strategic alliances on the continent in order to counter Iranian influence. This note examines the different aspects of Israel’s diplomatic offensive in Africa and the way Tel Aviv is preparing its return on the continent around issues such as the fight against terrorism and insecurity.
In 2017, Benyamin Netanyahou and Marcel de Souza, president of the commission of the Cedeao, signed the memorandum of understanding worth $1 billion for the development of solar infrastructures in member states of the Cedeao Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Côte d'Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo.
: “Our ambition on the diplomatic and humanitarian level is to support the private sector in domains such as this one, because this can contribute more quickly and efficiently to improving living conditions of millions of people" declared Avraham Neguise, member of the Israeli delegationhttps://www.agenceecofin.com/investissement/0506-47884-israel-investira…, consulted on October 14, 2018..
On the sidelines of the United Nations (UN) Annual General Assembly in New York, September 2018, Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Kagame agreed on the opening of embassies in Kigali and Tel Aviv in 2019 (until now relations between the two countries were carried out through the Israeli Embassy in Addis Ababa). The two chancelleries are also planning to open a direct airline flight between the two capitals. In April, Israel declared that it had signed an agreement with Rwanda and Uganda to host African refugees who would be expelled from Tel Aviv. However, different demonstrations led by human rights associations and certain political parties in Israel have compelled both countries to deny the existence of such a refugee managing agreement. This tension over refugees has not prevented the two capitals from strengthening further their relationships. Recently, Kigali even solicited two former senior Israeli officials (Former Attorney General, Yehuda Weinstein, and former Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor) to take the necessary steps in order to integrate the Organization for Cooperation and Economic Development (OECD): "Accession to OECD would require Rwanda to meet the highest international standards in governance, business environment and international relations. So it is in the mutual interest of Rwanda and the international community that they succeed. And we hope that other African countries will follow this example "says Ron Prosorhttps://www.agenceecofin.com/gouvernance-économique/1109-59836-le-rwand…-, consulted on October 7, 2018.. An eventual membership would thus make Rwanda the first African state to integrate this organization of 36 members and to be able to increase its cooperation with the main worldwide actors.
Throughout the year 2018, meetings between Israelis and Africans have multiplied: a signature in September of a cooperation treaty protocol between the Alliance for a green revolution in Africa (AGRA) and Start-up Nation Central (SNC), a non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Tel Aviv ; a meeting between the Economic Mission for Leaders Africa and Israel to promote the development of the private sector, particularly in cattle breeding, horticulture, poultry farming and aquaculture ; the organization in October in Togo of a trauma training session in which participated doctors from West and Central Africa (Cameroon, Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Liberia, Guinea Conakry and Togo) under the patronage of the Israeli Agency for international cooperation Mashav (established in 1958 by Golda Meir on her return from an official visit to Africa). Between 2016 and 2018, the Israeli embassy in Senegal has sent for training either in Israel or in partner countries nearly 70 nationals of the continent (Senegal, Guinea, Gambia, Cape Verde)APS, « L’ambassadeur d’Israël magnifie la coopération renforcée et variée avec Dakar », November 25, 2018, in http://www.aps.sn/actuatile/article/la-cooperation-entre-tel-aviv-et-da…..
Going beyond Africa's demand, Tel Aviv offers services concerning water access, electricity and health. The Israeli company Energiya Global and its partners have signed a development agreement for a solar park of $20 million at Roberts International Airport (Liberia). They plan to invest $2 billion in projects on the continent (wind, solar and hydraulic). Energiya Global has already installed its first 8.5 megawatt solar connections (6% of Rwandan electricity) in Agagozi-Shalom Youth Village (Rwanda), a village founded by an Israeli philanthropic society Tikkun Olam Ventures (TOV).Max Schindler, « Israel joins US-led ‘Power Africa’ to bring electricity to millions », in Jerusalem Post, November 22, 2017.
But the signs of reconciliation also alternate with episodes of tensions over the cases that are related to the Middle East. In December, for example, eleven African countries (Tanzania, Angola, Cameroon, Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Kenya, Rwanda, and Zambia) attended the inauguration of the American embassy in Jerusalem. However, when voting on the UN general Assembly's resolution of the 21 December 2017 condemning recognition by Washington of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the majority of Africans voted in favor of the text. Benin, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Lesotho, Malawi, Rwanda, South Sudan and Uganda abstained. Only Togo voted "against", thus aligning with American and Israeli positions. Either diplomatic support to Tel Aviv or concern over not to give the impression of letting go on Washington, this dispersion of African votes worried the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Having the observer status in the African Union (AU), Mahmoud Abbas asked the continent not to bend on the Palestinian case at the United Nations. In the majority of African chancelleries the settlement of the Palestinian question is no longer a precondition for normalization with Israel. On January 30, 2018 in Addis Ababa, Mahmoud Abbas invited the AU to hold an active part in the peace process leading to the establishment of an independent Palestinian State. This request may not be heard since Israel is also seeking admission as an observer member of the AU.
The fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, who was a hardliner, the exacerbation of economic competition, insecurity on the continent and the recent strategic rapprochement between Tel Aviv and some Gulf monarchies to counter Iran have cracked the African front on the Palestinian case.
An initiated normalization
In 1971, following the failure of the UN peace mission led by Gunnar Jarring, the Mauritanian Head of State Mokhtar Ould Daddah, then President-in-Office of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), appointed Ahmadou Ahidjo (Cameroon), Leopold Sédar Senghor (Senegal), Joseph Mobutu (Zaire) and Yakubu Gowon (Nigeria) to resume the Jarring mission. But Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir refused "any pressure" that would force her to give up on her strategic interests by withdrawing from the occupied territories. After the war of October 1973, almost all African states (except for Malawi, Botswana, Swaziland, Lesotho and South Africa) broke up their diplomatic relations with Israel. Faced with structural adjustments and security concerns in the 1980s, some African chancelleries (Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Zaire, Kenya, Togo, and Liberia) then turned to Israel and re-established their diplomatic relations. The signing of the Oslo Accords (1993) gradually led some forty chancelleries to reestablish ties with Israel.
Since the end of the apartheid and the coming to power of the ANC (African National Congress) in 1994, South Africa propelled itself to the forefront of the Palestinian cause on the international scene. In January 2018, at the UN Human Rights Council, Pretoria supported the Palestinians by believing that their situation resembled that of South Africa during apartheid (1948-1991). In May, the ANC proposed to the South African government to demote its embassy in Israel to a simple agencyRaphael Ahren, « South Africa levels apartheid charge at Israel, drawing seething response »The Times of Israel, >January 25, 2018, https://www.timesofisrael.com/south-africa-levels-apartheid-charge-at-i…, consulted on October 18, 2018. South African ambassador to Israel, Sisi Ngombane had been recalled by his government to denounce Israeli brutality during the weekly protests of the "Great March of Return" in Gaza. In the past, the ANC has also supported the Boycott, Divestment, Sanction (BDS) by claiming a ban in 2014 on all South African political parties to visit Israel.
But in many African chancelleries, the Palestinian question has become more an interstate issue than a question of national liberation. Even South Africa (its ambassador returned in September 2018) has very good relations with Israel. Pretoria is Tel Aviv's leading business partner on the continent.
Israel also offers its services on the continent in partnership with the United States. This is the case, for example, with the "Power-Africa" project. Initiated in 2013 by the American President Barack Obama, the project "Power Africa" aims to provide electricity to 60 million Africans by 2030. This project was renewed by President Donald Trump. Supervised by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)TOI STAFF, >The Times of Israel, « Israel joins USAID’S Power Africa energy development program » (4 December 2017), in https://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-joins-usaids-power-africa-energy-d…, consulted on October 18, 2018. it holds a hundred million dollars to meet the demands of African chancelleries: 600 million Africans do not have access to electricity while the continent has a continuingly growing number of people holding a net worth fortune ($305 billion in 2017)Ritel Tchounand, « Ultra-riches en Afrique : le Kenya, pays à la croissance la plus rapide »,>La Tribune Afrique,>5/10/2018, https://afrique.latribune.fr/finances/2018-10-05/utra-riches-en-afrique…, consulted on October 6, 2018. Mr. Netanyahu relies on "Power Africa" to offer his services to the continentSTAFF, >The Times of Israel <span ">« Netanyahu salue les liens Israël-Afrique lors du lancement d’un projet d’aide » (4 December 2017) in http://fr.timesofisrael.com/netanyahu-salue-les-liens-israel-afrique-lo…, consulted on December 5, 2017. in cooperation with Americans who benefit from 50 diplomatic representations in Africa while Israel only has about ten.
In October 2018, the US Senate also passed a law, the Build Act (Better Utilization of Investment Leading to Development) authorizing the creation of a major financial institution for development to counter the influence of China, especially in Africa. This institution named US International Development Finance Corporation – USIDEC is formed by the merger of several US government agencies including Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and USAID). It has a financial capacity of $60 billionEcofin agency, « Le Sénat américain adopte la loi portant création d’une méga-agence de développement pour contrer la Chine en Afrique », >Agence Ecofin<">, 5 October 2018, https://www.agenceecofin.com/aide-au-developpement/0510-60614-le-senat-…, consulted on October 14, 2018. and can also support the "Power Africa" project. On the continent, Tel Aviv has several projects under study: the construction of a desalination of seawater plant in Cape Town (South Africa), the development of an export market of desalination plants, in partnership with Société RS Distribution based in Rennes (France) and Luxembourg, to solve the problem in Africa (Senegal, Ivory Coast, Benin, etc.)Yann-Armel Huet, « Des rennais veulent importer des usines de dessalement d’Israël » >Ouest-France <>(October 17, 2018) in https://www.ouest-france.fr/bretagne/rennes-35000/des-rennais-veulent-i…, consulted on October 18, 2017..
A promising cooperation in the defense domain
As early as 1956, with the opening of its first consulate in Ethiopia, Tel Aviv demonstrates the importance it gives to the strait of Bab Al-Mandeb. With access to the Red Sea and to the Indian Ocean via the Gulf of Akaba, Israel plans to become a bridge between developed countries and is positioned in several fields such as education, army, and security. In 1957, Israeli experts begin the training of the army of Emperor Haile Selassie and the reorganization of his secret services. Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion pledges to support Ethiopia in the dispute with Egypt over the control of the Nile watersAvi Shlaïm, >Le mur de fer : Israël et le monde arabe<>, Paris, Buchet/Chastel, 2007, p. 231.. He especially wants to create, outside the bordering Arab countries, a belt of friendly states. This "periphery theory" has focused on Ethiopia and Sudan Shimon Pérès, La force de vaincre : Entretiens avec Joëlle Jonathan, Paris, Éditions du Centurion, 1981, p. 79., which have never since left the eyesight of Israeli strategists.
Sudan, which became independent in 1956, was perceived by Israel either a potential ally or a threat if it gets tied to the Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser. Khartoum’s policy regarding the South (mostly Christian), with the withdrawal from the promise to create a federal state and by extending in the 1980s the Islamic criminal law to the whole territory, plunged the country in a permanent civil war. Tel Aviv, having meanwhile signed peace agreements with Egypt (1978) and evacuated Sinai in 1982, changed its strategy by helping Sudanese separatists (mostly Christians and Animists) against the Sudanese power that had decided in 1983 to extend Charia law to the south, thereby triggering the second civil war, a war that was perceived as a religious war between the Islamic North and the Christian South which became officially independent in 2011 after a long conflict but is still facing a long civil war.
However, in June 2018, negotiations between the two Sudanese leaders, Salva Kir and Riek Machar, took place in Khartoum under the patronage of the Sudanese government. We can therefore conclude that relations between the two Sudan are beginning to improve with the support of the Trump Administration, which lifted part of the embargo on Sudan, but also with Tel Aviv, which can only congratulate itself for being able to maintain good relations with both Sudans.
With Kenya, the security alliance dates back to 1976, since the kidnapping in Entebbe (Uganda). And since the attacks at the Westgate Shopping Center in 2013, the two countries have strengthened their cooperation in the fight against jihadist movements: "We believe that there is a need for us, as a continent, to recommit alongside with Israel on a more positive basis, so we understand that our partnership can help make this world safer”Raphael Ahren, « Craintes d’émeutes alors que Netanyahu se rend à l’investiture du président kenyan », The Times of Israel, November 27, 2017, http://fr.timesofisrael.com/craintes-demeutes-alors-que-netanyahu-se-re…, November 27, 2017. explained Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta at a joint conference with Mr. Netanyahu in 2016 in Nairobi.
Israel also shares its security expertise with the Ivory Coast. Tel Aviv secures the autonomous port of Abidjan and the International Airport Felix Houphouët-Boigny with the help of the subsidiaries of the Israeli-Canadian company Visual DefenseSabine Cessou, « Qui sont les partenaires commerciaux d’Israël en Afrique », RFI (June 27, 2014), see http://www.rfi.fr/mfi/20140627-commerciaux-israel-afrique-diamant/ consulted on October 15, 2018.. In October 2018, a delegation of Israeli parliamentarians was received in Abidjan by their Ivorian counterparts to develop relations in the fields of water, solar energy, industry and security.
In Cameroon, since the failed coup d’État against President Paul Biya in April 1984, Israel forms the Republican Guard, "perfect double of an IDF unit: uniforms, purple berets, paratrooper boots and weapons, proud of his Israeli training" writes the Israeli Prime Minister, Itzhak Shamir Itzhak Shamir, Ma vie pour Israël, mémoires de combat, Paris, NM7 Ramsay 2000, pp. 327-328.. Israeli General Maher Hères is in charge of the formation of the Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR) in the fight against Boko Haram in the extreme north of the country.
Nigeria also appears as one of Israel's security customers. On the 14th of April 2014, when 223 high school girls from Chibok, Borno State, were kidnapped by members of Boko Haram, Benyamin Netanyahu, while visiting Japan, declared that his country is "ready to help locate the adolescent girls and fight cruel terrorism". After the United States refused to provide the Nigerian military with military equipment, Abuja turned in 2014 to Tel Aviv to buy Cobra helicopters (American manufacturing). The sale of these helicopters is subject to the prior approval of the United States, the Obama administration opposed fearing that Nigerian civilians will be the first victims of their use. In 2018, President Donald Trump lifted the restrictions and declared to be willing to sell to Nigeria 12 fighter and reconnaissance planes worth $600 million. Tel Aviv hopes the lifting of restrictions will put security negotiations with Abuja back on track to fight Boko Haram in the Lake Chad region.
The continent's defense spending is $42.6 billion in 2017 and Israel's defense exports to the continent rose from $800 million in 2015 to $6.5 billion in 2016, an increase of 70%. In 2017 the continent represented only 5% of the total exports of the Israeli defense, but the African market remains promising« Augmentation de 40% des ventes d'armes d'Israël » in Juif.org, May 2, 2018, see: http://www.juif.org/economie-israelienne/223358,augmentation-de-40-des-…, consulted on October 26, 2018).. Sub-Saharan Africa ranks third among regions with the highest military expenses compared to GDP, with a share of 1.7% against 3.6% for North Africa and 5.2% for the Middle East. Military expenses in sub-Saharan Africa represent 6.9% of public expenditure of the countries of the regionSIPRI Yearbook 2017<span">, les rapports du Groupe de Recherche et d’information sur la paix et la sécurité, GRIP/ 2017/8, https://www.sipri.org/sites/default/files/2017-09/yb17-summary_fr.pdf..
Over time, Israel has also diversified its intervention sectors. In Cameroon, for example, negotiations are underway between the Israeli operator Gilat Telecom (formerly Gilat Satcom) and the third mobile operator in Cameroon Nextel (controlled mainly by the Vietnamese operator Viettel) in order to access the market of both fiber optic networks and 4G on the continentAgence Ecofin, « Au Cameroun, l’opérateur du mobile Nexttel s’associe à l’Israélien Gilat Telecom, pour déployer la 4G » (22 August 2018) in https://www.agenceecofin.com/infrastructures/2208-59296-au-came-roun-l-…, consulted on October 14, 2018..
The diamond sector attracts Israeli funds to South Africa, Botswana, Congo and Angola, where Omega Diamonds operates, partly owned by Israeli-Russian Arkady GaydamakRead Africa Confidential, 13 July 2018, vol. 59, N° 14, p. 12.. The Beny Steinmetz Group Resources (BSGR) company intervenes in the mining sectors (copper, cobalt, oil, etc.) in Angola, Namibia, Sierra Leone or Botswana. Israeli firms Dan Gerler invest in diamonds in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola. The Lev Leviev Company (Lev Leviev Diamonds – LLD) operates mainly in Africa. The LLD took over the Namibian Minerals Corporation (Namco, declared bankrupt in 2003) and deployed on the coast of Namibia a large-scale prospecting and owns the largest gem-cutting factory on the continent.
In 2017, Israel imported more than $413 million worth of products from AfricaSouth Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, Rwanda, Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, Zambia, Senegal, Ghana, Cameroon, Liberia, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Egypt, Namibia, Gabon and Morocco are among the Israel's main economic partners in Africa.. Its main economic exchanges (in millions of dollars) are with Ethiopia (69.3), Ghana (5.1), South Africa (64.3), Côte d'Ivoire (13), Tanzania (11.8), Egypt (180.4), Morocco (23.9), Nigeria (4.9), Senegal (4.3) and Kenya (7.3). Other African chancelleries account for $28.8 million in Israeli imports. Israeli exports to Africa are estimated at 700 million and $645 million in 2016. These main clients are: Angola (9), Ghana (12), Gabon (26), South Africa (53), Liberia (3), Nigeria (22), Seychelles (14), Congo (23) and the other African States (536)Central Bureau of Statistics, Statistical Abstract of Israel 2018, www.cbs.gov.il..
Of Israel's 22 African trading partners, Morocco is the most discreet, while trade between the two countries amounts to $149 million between 2014 and 2017. In 2017 alone, trade between Israel and the kingdom is estimated at 37 million of dollars. Israel has created in Morocco a subsidiary of Netafim, the Israeli giant of agricultural technology specializing in water management. Netafim invested $2.9 million to create its subsidiary Netafim Morocco (which was actually located in Morocco since 1994 under a different name through its branch Regafim)Sebastian Shahadi, « The Open Secret of Israeli-Moroccan Business is Growing » Middle East Eye du 5 November 2018 -https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/open-secret-israeli-moroccan-busines…- 813168914, consulted on November 9, 2018.. Although discreet, Israeli-Moroccan relations are regularly denounced by anti-normalization Moroccan associations. In Casablanca, after the recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel by the United States, extensive events, supported by the Moroccan Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (MACBI) member of the BDS movement, claiming the cessation of all economic and cultural relations with Israel. Since 1969, date of the fire of the Al-Aqsa Mosque which laid the foundation of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to which the Al-Quds Committee (established in 1975) is affiliated, Morocco has placed itself at the forefront of the defense of Muslims interests in Jerusalem by presiding the Al-Quds Committee since its establishment. The kingdom of Morocco is in a precarious place. Its status as leading the Al-Quds Committee requires it to defend the Muslims’ interests in Jerusalem. But at the same time, its economic and political interests (the crucial issue of Western Sahara) oblige it to maintain discreet relations with Tel Aviv which has the Trump Administration’s attentive ear.
Chad has also moved closer to Israel. In September 2017, Dore Gold, a director from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, traveled to N'Djamena with the intention to restore diplomatic relations between the two countries (halted since 1972). In November 2018, an Israeli delegation visited Chad for talks on the possibility of renewing diplomatic relations. On November 25, 2018, the Chadian President Idriss Déby Itno made a "historic" official visit to Israel to strengthen security cooperation, before a possible resumption of diplomatic relations. As a predominantly Muslim country, Chad is a member of the OIC and waiting for accession to the Arab League. In case of re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel, Chad could position itself at the forefront of Israeli strategy to normalize relations with Mali and Niger: two member countries of the G5 Sahel force (with Chad, Mauritania and Burkina Faso) fighting jihadists in Sahel. The Chadian army and the National Intelligence Agency would be equipped with Israeli military equipment.
Independent since 2011, South Sudan is among Israel’s allies. Both countries shared the same hostility towards Omar Al-Bashir’s regime in Sudan, Hamas’ ally and Iran's sole Sunni ally in the region. But in 2014, Sudan ordered the closure of an Iranian cultural center accused of Shia proselytism and joined in March 2015 the coalition created by Saudi Arabia to lead the Yemeni war in order to "officially" restore the authority of Yemeni President Hadi (elected in 2012 and exiled to Riyadh since 2015). Iran's influence creates a convergence of interests between the predominantly Sunni Arab states and Israel. In January 2016, Khartoum halted its relations with Tehran. Sudan has become "pragmatic"« Desperate Diplomacy » in Africa Confidential,>November 4, 2016, vol. 57, N° 22. declared B. Netanyahu. On October 6, 2017, Donald Trump decides to lift, in part, the embargo against the Sudan and, in May 2018, the US undersecretary of State John Sullivan made a visit to Khartoum. Assuming this visit has nothing to do with the Israeli calendar, its falls in any case at the right time to activate diplomacy. Asked about a possible rapprochement with Israel, "we do not mind studying this proposal"Sue Surkes, « Le Soudan envisagerait de normaliser ses relations avec Israël », in The Times of Israel, January 21, 2016, https://fr.timesofisrael.com/le-soudan-penserait-normaliser-ses-relatio… consulted on November 25, 2018. says the Sudanese Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ibrahim Ghandou.
In the process of Africa’s strategy to diversify its partners, Israel wants to be part of it and relies on French countries. One can then wonder how the balance of power will evolve on the political spectrum of the continent. Since the arrival of Donald Trump to office, Tel Aviv and Washington seem to have coordinated their policy on Africa. Some African chancelleries consider that the key to access the Trump administration lies in Tel Aviv. For example, in September 2017, the United States, considering that Chad does not cooperate enough in the fight against terrorism, added Chadian citizens on the "black list" of undesirables on their territory. Coincidence? Almost at the same moment, Dore Gold, then director of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs went to N'Djamena with the intention to restore diplomatic relations between the two countries. Second example, Donald Trump's decision to lift, in part, the embargo against Sudan on the 6th of October 2017 and John Sullivan’s visit to Khartoum in May 2018 resulted in a rapprochement between Sudan and Israel. In other words, the shift in Sudanese and Chadian positions over the relationship with Israel is partly related to Washington's influence. But on the continent, Israel has also become involved in the issues of cooperation rivalry and direct alliances by offering its services in all fields: humanitarian, cultural, or religious. Tel Aviv's dispatch of first-aid rescuers to Freetown, Sierra Leone, during the landslide that occurred in 2017 and the opening on the continent of the Hokma Bina Da'at religious centers (Habad-Wisdom : Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Angola, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Ivory Coast, Zanzibar) demonstrate the growing importance Israel addresses to Africa.
This Israeli diplomatic breakthrough in Africa can have several consequences for France, since Israel has every intention of sharing its expertise in economic and security domains. However, 70% of French military cooperation is destined for Africa in the form of multidimensional operations and asymmetric wars (insurrections, guerrillas and terrorism). Knowing that it is difficult to overcome these conflicts without increasing French commitment which comes with the risk that they are considered as occupying forces, the reinforcement of national and regional forces (as is already the case in G5 Sahel) could be the only solution. The eventual re-establishment of relations between Tel Aviv and G5 Sahel countries (Chad, Niger, Mali, Mauritania) could, on the security level, bring France to review its strategy on the ground in association with the Israelis or by encouraging (or not) African states to maintain individual security relations with Tel Aviv which, for reminders, is following its own diplomatic agenda.
Israel's Diplomatic Offensive in Africa
Alhadji Bouba Nouhou, December 21, 2018