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Now Chad, then Mali: Why African countries are normalizing with Israel

Opinion
on 25 Comments

Forget the hype. Israel’s ‘security technology’ has nothing to do with why some African countries are eager to normalize relations with Israel.

What is it that Israel is able to offer in the technology sector to Chad, Mali and others that the United States, the European Union, China, Russia, India, Brazil, South Africa and others cannot?

The answer is ‘nil’, and the moment we accept such a truth is the moment we start to truly understand why Chad, a Muslim-majority country, has just renewed its diplomatic ties with Israel. And, by extension, the same logic applies to Mali, another Muslim-majority country that is ready to normalize with Israel.

Chadian President, Idriss Deby, was in Israel last November, a trip that was touted as another Benjamin Netanyahu-engineered breakthrough by the Israeli government and its allied media.

In return, Israeli Prime Minister, Netanyahu, paid Deby a visit to N’djamena where they agreed to resume diplomatic ties. In their joint press conference, Deby spoke of ‘deals’ signed between Chad and Israel, but failed to provide more details.

Israel may try to present itself as the savior of Africa, but no matter how comparatively strong the Israeli economy is, Tel Aviv will hardly have the keys to solving the woes of Chad, Mali or any other country on the African continent.

Israeli media is actively contributing to the fanfare that has accompanied Netanyahu’s ‘scramble for Africa’, and is now turning its focus to preparations under way for another ‘historic visit”, that of Malian Prime Minister, Soumeylou Boubèye Maïga, to Israel in the “coming weeks”.

Netanyahu is keen to schedule Maiga’s trip just before the April 9 date, when Israelis go to the polls to vote in the country’s early general elections.

Israel’s motives to normalize with Africa are inspired by the same reasoning behind Netanyahu’s international outreach to South America and other regions in the global South.

Despite the Trump-Netanyahu love affair at the moment, Israel has no faith in the future of the US in the Middle East region. The current Donald Trump administration, as the previous Barack Obama administration, has made clear and calculated moves to slowly deploy out of the region and ‘pivot’ elsewhere.

This has alerted Netanyahu to the fact that Israel would have to diversify its alliances as an American veto at the United Nations Security Council is no longer a guarantor to Israel’s regional dominance.

For years, Netanyahu has pursued an alternative course, which has become the only path for Israel to escape its international isolation. Unfortunately for Palestinians, Israel’s new strategy, of seeking separate alliances with UN General Assembly members seems to be paying dividends. Israel now hopes that other countries that have historically stood on the side of Palestinians – voting for Palestinian rights as a bloc at the UN – will follow the Chad and Mali examples.

The struggle between Israel and Arab countries in Africa, according to Dan Avni – a top Israeli Foreign Ministry official during the 1950s and ‘60s – is “a fight of life and death for us.” That statement was made during a time that the US had not fully and ardently committed to the Israeli colonial project, and Israel was in a desperate need to break away from its isolation.

Following the expansion of the Israeli colonial project in Palestine and other Arab countries after the 1967 war, the US unconditional political, economic and military support for Israel has addressed many of Israel’s perceived vulnerabilities, empowering it to become the uncontested bully of the whole region. At the time, neither Africa mattered, nor did the rest of the international community.

But now, a new Great Game is changing the rules once more. Not only is the US losing its grip in the Middle East and Africa – thanks to the rise of Russian and Chinese influences, respectively – Washington is also busy elsewhere, desperate to sustain its dwindling global hegemony for a bit longer.

Although ties between Washington and Tel Aviv are still strong, Israeli leaders are aware of a vastly changing political landscape. According to Israeli calculation, the ‘fight of life and death’ is drawing near, once again.

The answer? Enticing poor countries, in Africa and elsewhere, with political support and economic promises so that they would deny Palestinians a vote at the UN.

It is no surprise that the governments of Chad and Mali are struggling, not only economically, but also in terms of political legitimacy as well. Torn in the global struggle for dominance between the US and China, they feel pressed to make significant choices that could make the difference between their survival or demise in future upheavals.

For these countries, an alliance with Israel is a sure ticket to the Washington political club. Such membership could prove significant in terms of economic aid, political validation and, more importantly, an immunity against pesky military coups.

Considering this, those who are stuck discussing the Israeli ‘charm offensive’ in Africa based on the claim of Israel’s technological advancement and hyped water technology are missing the forest for the trees.

It is important to note that it is not the road to Tel Aviv that N’Djamena and Bamako are seeking, but rather the road to Washington itself. In Africa, as in other parts of the global South, it is often the US, not the UN that bestows and denies political legitimacy. For African leaders who enjoy no democratic credence, a handshake with Netanyahu could be equivalent to a political life insurance.

So, for now, Israel will continue to walk this fine line, usurping American resources and political support as always, while learning how to walk on its own, by developing a foreign policy that it hopes will spare it further isolation in the future.

It is yet to dawn on Israeli leaders that, perhaps, a shortcut to breaking its isolation can be achieved through respecting international law, the rights of the Palestinian people and the territorial sovereignty of its neighbors.

Diplomatic ties with Chad and Mali may garner Netanyahu a few more votes next April, but they will also contribute to the Israeli illusion that it can be an international darling and an Apartheid regime, simultaneously.

Ramzy Baroud

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His latest book is The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story (Pluto Press, London, 2018). He earned a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter and is a Non-Resident Scholar at Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, UCSB.

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25 Responses

  1. Maximus Decimus Meridius on January 30, 2019, 1:11 pm

    Surely this is just an updated – and downgraded – version of the ”Alliance of the Periphery” strategy? I say ‘downgraded’ because whereas back in the day, Isreal managed to get major players like Turkey or Iran onside, now they’re acting as though it’s some great achievement for a highly impoverished, politically insignificant (no offence) African nation to open an embassy.

    As for said African nations, as the article says, it’s obvious what’s in it for them – cosying up to Israel is a relatively cost-free way to win the hearts and minds of the Washington elite. Absent that, ‘friendship’ with Israel is of very little value.

    • DaBakr on February 1, 2019, 12:24 am

      @m

      Ignoring security, agriculture, water conservation and solar energy, yeah sure, the U.S. Is clamoring to help these African nations (who, btw, don’t make violent threats against the U.S. Or Israel. And, if security or other business happen to lead to better relations with the US then good for them. But you probably prefer the methods of china, Iran or Russia’s ways of integrating into these nations. And btw, nobody is curtailing chinese investment in Africa

      • Maximus Decimus Meridius on February 1, 2019, 10:05 am

        The confusing syntax makes it impossible to make any sense of your post.

        But if you want to think photo opportunites with 3rd tier African leaders is some sort of strategic coup, I’ll not be the one to disillusion you.

  2. eljay on January 30, 2019, 1:41 pm

    It’s amusing to see Israel cozying up to the same countries (Saudi Arabia, Mali and African “hellholes”) Zionists used both:
    – to disparage; and
    – to point to in defence of Israel’s (war) criminal behaviour.

  3. JWalters on January 30, 2019, 7:27 pm

    “It is important to note that it is not the road to Tel Aviv that N’Djamena and Bamako are seeking, but rather the road to Washington itself.”

    They all see the reality that the US is merely Israel’s dumb muscle. They want to deal directly with the boss.

    • Marnie on January 30, 2019, 11:56 pm

      I agree. Although netanyahooo doesn’t sound as much a buffoon as prezydint tRUMP, he’s just as prone to fits of temper and pique and he is a racist MF. Netanyahoo must be making them a sweetheart arms deal to prove, you know, that he isn’t a racist SOB and his government only kills black people living in palestine, not outside of it, right (unless you were a Tutsi).

  4. hai_bar on January 31, 2019, 3:10 am

    The author does not mention a thing of other Arab-Muslim countries (starring Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and finally Oman) to normalize their suspected longer ties “Israel”, could this be a factor in driving these Muslim-majority Countries in going in the sun with this?

  5. Jackdaw on January 31, 2019, 7:37 am

    @Ramzy

    In 2016, BEFORE Trump’s election, Netanyahu had already become the first Israeli prime minister in three decades to travel to Africa, visiting Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia.

    Ramzy, Didn’t you know that some African countries are seeking closer ties with Israel in such geopolitical fields such as security and counterterrorism in order to combat extremist movements, such as Boko Haram in Nigeria and Al-Shabaab in Somalia?

    Well. Now you know.

    And here’s something else Ramzy.
    In June 2017, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was the first non-African leader to participate in a Summit of the Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS
    During ECOWAS, Netanyahu announced an investment of $1 billion in solar energy to benefit the 15 member countries over the next four years with implementation by Energiya Global, Israel’s leading solar developer.
    The first project: a $20 million solar field at Roberts International Airport in Liberia, estimated to supply 25 percent of the country’s power. In December, Israel signed an agreement with the United States to increase Africa’s energy access and electricity deficiencies through innovative solutions. The partnership is part of a $7 billion, five-year Power Africa project, launched by the Obama administration.

    Well. Now you know that too.

    • oldgeezer on January 31, 2019, 8:43 am

      @jackdaw

      “The partnership is part of a $7 billion, five-year Power Africa project, launched by the Obama administration. ”

      Yep… access to the US.

      Further proof that Obama was a Muslim and antisemite to the deranged zionists no doubt.

    • Misterioso on January 31, 2019, 9:29 am

      @Jackdaw

      Some advice to those African countries cozying up to Netanyahu and “Israel” – “Lie down with dogs and you’ll get fleas”

    • Rashers2 on February 3, 2019, 1:12 am

      I’m sure Dr. Baroud, who (we may be forgiven for suspecting, unlike you) has genuine academic credentials and background to analyse Israeli foreign policy rather than merely parroting Hasbara Central’s list of Israel’s overseas aid achievements in Africa, will be suitably grateful for your intervention. Interesting, if Israel (I haven’t searched for verification) has, indeed, given Liberia $20m for a solar energy project which will supply ”25% of th[at] country’s power”. What a pity that similar magnanimity couldn’t be demonstrated (indeed, would be anathema) a bit closer to home, where crippling power shortages/outages are alleviated only through deliveries of fossil fuels enabled by e. g. the Qataris, at Heaven knows what on-cost to the benefactor in bribes to the Egyptians and Israelis for the privilege.

      • Jackdaw on February 3, 2019, 12:28 pm

        @Rashers

        You may not be aware, but Liberians are not indiscriminately lobbing rockets at Israeli civilians.

      • Rashers2 on February 3, 2019, 7:23 pm

        “You may not be aware, but Liberians are not indiscriminately lobbing rockets at Israeli civilians.” Perhaps that’s because Israel isn’t keeping two million Liberians confined in the world’s largest concentration camp, ‘daw.

  6. Kay24 on January 31, 2019, 8:51 am

    They don’t realize how toxic it is to invite this poison into their nations. Shame on Saudi Arabia, and these two African nations, they are deliberately ignoring international laws, and the international condemnation that Israel has brought on itself, by it’s deplorable human rights abuses of the Palestinian people, including the occupation, and land grabs. The two African nations should be cautious when making deals with the Devil. All they have to do is take a good look at what is happening in the US, where the Devil controls us, and we know it.

    • Rashers2 on February 3, 2019, 2:37 am

      @Kay24, previously, I have conjectured that the Gulf autocracies like KSA may be playing a dangerous game in their cosying-up to Tel Aviv. They are doing so out of a common enmity (of overlapping but slightly different origin) towards Iran. There is a shared aim of limiting Tehran’s regional influence and of preventing Iran’s achieving its economic potential (it is an extensive, populous country of ±80 million with a young, highly-literate population and potentially rich through industry and its natural resources, not confined to hydrocarbons). The Zionists are preoccupied with Tehran’s influence through e. g. Hezbollah in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, where they would prefer to be alone and unopposed in sowing confusion, discord and disarray in pursuit of an “Eretz Israel” from the Nile (“Why stop at the Nile?” – Naftali Bennett) to the Euphrates.
      The KSA and the other Gulf monarchies also fear Tehran’s potential political and economic clout in the region although, in their cases, this must also be understood through the prism of the Sunni: Shi’a sectarian divide within Islam itself: in the Northern Gulf states there is a large population of Shi’ites of Iranian heritage, many of whose forebears have been there for centuries. In Bahrain, there are more Shi’ite than Sunni Muslims although power has lain for at least two centuries with the Sunni ruling dynasty. In Kuwait, there’s a sizeable Shi’ite minority (ca. 40%) and in the Eastern Province of KSA itself (where, co-incidentally, most of KSA’s oil resources are situate) there is a much smaller minority of Shi’ite although greater than ever conceded in official statistics.
      The rulers of Chad, Mali and of the Gulf autocracies should be mindful, therefore, that a mainstream religion such as Islam, nearly two billion-strong and rapidly growing, is bigger than any of them individually or collectively. Any assault by the Ziopaths on Islam itself, whether through some act of madness targeting the Noble Sanctuary or otherwise, would result in a Scirocco of anti-Zionist/anti-Israeli outrage which overnight could cause a political volte face to prevent the popular consent through which, in the Gulf, the rulers continue to rule (I cannot speak for Chad or Mali as I am unfamiliar with their political situations) from evaporating. Those concerned on the Arab and African sides of these “rapprochements” should be careful, as your metaphor suggests, to use long-handled spoons if supping with Mr. Mileikowsky.

      • Kay24 on February 3, 2019, 9:46 am

        You have a great perception, and a good handle on the situation.. I agree with all you have stated. Saudi Arabia and Israel, the new best buddies, are indeed afraid of Iran’s rise, and with America’s help, is trying hard to bring them down, Netanyahu even using cartoon bombs to frighten the world, and urge American leaders to waste tax payer money, and want American blood to spill, by waging yet another war once again, with a ME nation, that makes THEM feel insecure. Unfortunately, we also have a moron in the White House who destroyed all that Obama and his administration worked for, a nuclear deal with Iran, which was working well, until a vindictive Trump tore it up, perhaps at Jared’s advice.

      • Rashers2 on February 3, 2019, 7:42 pm

        I fervently hope that no further American blood is spilled in a war with Iran; or anywhere else in the region. Recent history, however, suggests that hope to be optimistic. What may save us is the pivoting away from the M-E of US foreign policy (I use the phrase loosely…) towards more pressing preoccupations, including China and Russia, as suggested in the article above. The disengagement from the M-E, however, will be gradual and the slowness of this process doesn’t eliminate the risk of a small group with loud voices and deep pockets making sufficient noise in DC that another régime-change war will get started in the region – after all, the last one went so well……

      • RoHa on February 3, 2019, 9:58 pm

        So American blood gets spilled in war with China and/or Russia.

      • Rashers2 on February 4, 2019, 5:19 am

        @RoHa, such was not the intentional subtext of my response to @Kay24. Now you bring it up, however, if we are to draw any lessons for the future from the past, that’s probably a fair comment about US “foreign policy” – indeed, about the phenomenon of foreign policy conducted by ageing, ailing empires generally. The closer looms a broad perception of the shift in the global balance of power (which has, in fact, already occurred) away from the USA, the more cheaply are America’s leaders likely to regard the lives of their own servicemen and citizens, in their attempts to defer acceptance of a new and lesser role on the world stage.
        Like a yacht running before a following sea, I yaw between two analyses of US foreign policy since the end of Isolationism: either it is an almost unbroken chain of repeated mistakes resulting in opposite and unintended consequences on a scale satisfying one definition of lunacy (endlessly repeating the same behaviour with the expectation each time of a different outcome from previously); or it is merely a string of cynically partisan actions carried out in the interests for the time being of the US I-M complex and, accordingly, indifferent as to the outcomes on others (which, given the motivation, are preponderantly likely to disfavour those affected by them who are the disparate “others”).

  7. amigo on January 31, 2019, 11:43 am

    Slightly off topic.

    Israel loves to invite people in power who have questionable characters.

    Take Priti (Trevelyan)Patel for example.She is a member in good standing of CFI –(Conservative Friends of Israel).

    “A suggestion that the threat of food shortages be used to force Ireland to drop the Brexit backstop has sparked a furious reaction on both sides of the Irish Sea as the British government faces the final days of its hard sell on Theresa May’s deal.

    https://www.herald.ie/news/starve-the-irish-threat-by-brexitbacking-tory-sparks-furious-backlash-37606031.html

    I suspect she learned this zionist special plan for Gaza ,on her illegal , all expenses paid trip (by Israel)to the rogue regime .

    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/live/2017/nov/08/priti-patel-secret-israel-meetings-politics-live?page=with:block-5a034b9770242a077194cf8e

    • Rashers2 on February 3, 2019, 1:26 am

      @amigo, continuing off-piste, my views on la Patel are already on record. She was a disgrace to the public office which she no longer holds, is a disgrace to parliament and to the Tory party (which last is saying quite a lot, given its present state of disarray and the opinions of some far better qualified than I to judge, like Matthew Parris, that the party is in its death throes and within a year will enter a decade or more of open, internecine war and decline before re-emerging as a political force – or not…). It is the Patels, as well as the Trumps and Mileikowskys, of this world that give politics the bad name it currently merits.

      • amigo on February 3, 2019, 12:12 pm

        Rashers2 ,

        The business of politics has become so toxic and not necessarily in the trump sphere , that these people place no limit on their vile outbursts.

        Given Ireland,s history of Famines , one might expect a modicum of thought from those in power across the water , if not just from a perspective of enlightened self interest , given her party is in need of Irish cooperation in the Brexit sham.It beggars belief.I know there are many British people who would be horrified by such comments.

        I shudder to think how much damage will be done to the International order if Trump gets in for another 4 years .As for the Mileikowskys, their days are short but needless to say , they will be replaced by a similarly criminally twisted , if not worse , pair .

        Who , just 2 years ago could have foreseen such a global mess .Putin must be laughing his ass off.

      • Rashers2 on February 3, 2019, 6:58 pm

        I had not forgotten the appalling Irish gaffe la Patel made and was at the time one of those “horrified Brits”. Whatever Ms. Patel studied as an undergraduate, it certainly wasn’t 18th Century literature; or she might have encountered Dean Swift’s “A Modest Proposal.” À propos, and moving even further off-piste, a clever, caustic and moving parody of “A Modest Proposal” was penned by a successful porn star, to satirise Wm. F. Buckley, Jr.’s disgusting suggestion in 1986 in the NYT that, “Everyone detected with AIDS should be tattooed in the upper forearm, to protect common-needle users, and on the buttocks, to prevent the victimization of other homosexuals.”

      • echinococcus on February 3, 2019, 10:33 pm

        ” I shudder to think how much damage will be done to the International order if Trump gets in for another 4 years .”

        Shudder away. After X years of naked American Empire, just count the most recent: 4 years of Bush 8 years of Clinton 8 y o Bush 8 y o Bama with total respect of sovereignty and strict observation of international law and order, now we have the damaging one, Yarright. Ireland is not getting the news from over here, I imagine.

  8. MHughes976 on February 3, 2019, 11:23 am

    I remember visiting my family in Panama six or seven years ago and driving past President Martinelli’s private residence one evening. The shadowy figures were, I was told, his Israeli security staff. Martinelli is now in prison for misusing spying technology for blackmail (the sex lives of political rivals became well known to him) and it seems that he preferred this piece of Israeli security tech because it came with fewer strings as to its use than did its American commercial rivals. (Los Angeles Times, May 23, 2015.). I would draw the conclusion that Israeli security stuff is a) pretty damn good b) somewhat unethical. But I do think it’s true that Israel is slotting into the world order in all sorts of ways and has sources of support way beyond the liberal-minded American Jews who have been its traditional mainstay.
    Panama has been a Jewish centre for centuries and Jewish presence in the country’s business life is very marked. The new and I much hope much better President has followed his predecessor in visiting Israel amid much warmth and mutual fair words, but he has so far resisted pressure to open an Embassy in Jerusalem.

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