Israel Tries Hanging on to Observer’s Seat in African Union

Emblem of the African Union. (African Union)

Israel is seeking to retain its observer’s status in the African Union even though some of its members want it out, The Jerusalem Post reported on Sunday.

A vote on the matter was scheduled to take place this week as the African Union’s Executive Council convenes in Addis Ababa.

South Africa and Algeria are said to be leading the move to oust Israel, but it requires a two-thirds vote of the 54 member states to do so. A diplomatic source in Yerushalayim was quoted as saying that he was optimistic that Israel has the votes it needs to defeat the move.

“Most countries are happy that we’re there,” the diplomatic source said, “but some were opposed to the process.”

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid have reportedly taken an active part in the fight to stay on at the AU, the former talking with the president of Senegal, and the latter with his counterparts in Togo and Burundi.

Israel rejoined the African Union as an observer in July 2021, with key support from its commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat and the current chairperson, President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo Felix Tshikedi.

Since then, however, 21 member states have come out against Israel’s presence there, and in particular objected to way the Israeli arrival was presented to them at the time as a fait accompli.

South Africa, Algeria, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana were among the countries that opposed Israel rejoining the AU, as did nearly every Muslim-majority country in Africa, except for Morocco and Chad, which established diplomatic relations with Israel in recent years, and Sudan, which is now doing so, the Post said.

Egypt signed at least one of the protest letters against Israel’s re-admission, though a diplomatic source maintained it was mainly because it wanted AU decisions to be made by consensus.

Comoros, an island country off the east coast of Africa and a member of the Arab League with which Israel has been in negotiations to establish diplomatic relations in recent months, also opposed Israel’s AU observer status.

Only 11 out of 54 AU member states do not have full relations with Israel, and several of those 11 have understandings with Israel, such as Djibouti, which allows Israeli ships to pass through its waters.

The AU was founded in 2002, with Israel as an observer. Israel was ousted from the AU in 2003, in a campaign spearheaded by Muammar Gadhafi, the Libyan dictator at the time.

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