Israeli Affairs (Issue no. 80)

Israel in Africa: The process of developing relations

  • Editor: Raif Zureik, Nabil al-Saleh, Honaida Ghanem
  • Preparation: Ali Zubeidat, Mohammed Ka’dan, Bilal Mohammed Shalash, Gadi El-Ghazi, Amit Lynn, Gil Anidjar, Raef Zreik, Malek Samarah, Yaron Salman, Ahmed Izz al-Din As’ad, Wadi’ Awawdeh, Hisham Naffa’, Amir Makhoul
  • Number of Pages: 136
  • ISBN: ISSN 2709-0361
  • Date of update: Thursday, 04 February 2021
  • Price: $0.00

This issue is released shortly after the most weird US elections and ahead of the fourth Israeli elections, to be held in two years. Though uncertain, this election is at least likely. While an outgoing US President does not admit defeat, a stranded Israeli prime minister is looking for a new victory. It seems that endeavours of normalisation with many and multiple, old and new, Arab states are nothing but stratagems in the accounts of both leaders. A necessary and careful analysis of the landscape unfolding before our own eyes must be put on hold a little while until some issues are visible and the path is clear. We will get back to this topic very soon.

This issue addresses Israel’s relations, influence, and power in Africa. It includes several articles, some of which provide an overall review of Israeli objectives and strategy of action in Africa. Others highlight Israeli relations with particular states, such as Sudan, Ethiopia, and South Africa.

Since Israel was established, Ben-Gurion attached great importance to the periphery of the Periphery States which encircled Israel, such as Turkey, Iran, and Ethiopia. He was of the view that influence in these states might serve as a thorn in the side of Arab states. This might one of many entry points to understand Israel’s relations with Africa. There are many other considerations and objectives, including water, arms sales and, more importantly, support and voting by these states for Israel in international fora. At any rate, Israel has sought to take advantage of and use inconsistencies between many states across the region to match its own interests. Israel seeks to uncover the needs of these states – or their heads – and attempts to trade off response to these needs with support to Israel in different contexts.

This issue has its focus on the nature of these interests and the techniques used by Israel to achieve its goals in Africa. It aims at understanding Israel’s foreign relations and methods to accomplish its goals.

Israel in Africa: The process of developing relations

The Israeli influence in Africa: From “tightening the belt” to “The Belt and Road”
Amir Makhoul
The relationship between Israel and Africa is solid and evolving towards new horizons. Having achieved strategic goals, Israel has developed a strategy in line with Africa’s Agenda 2063 and shifts in international trade. Israel is of the view that its supreme interests lie in the Horn of Africa and Nile Basin countries. Seizing control of the Nile river headwaters and tributaries is a geostrategic issue. Israel has already managed to establish an African periphery around the Arab periphery states and prevented the Red Sea from becoming a Arab lake. Now, Israel is moving on to cooperation with its new Arab allies, particularly the United Arab Emirates (UAE), as well as with West Africa. Israel is also building international trade routes that extend beyond the need for the Suez Canal. There is an inverse causal link between the Arab, particularly Egyptian, situation and Israeli influence in Africa. After Israel has achieved its goals over 70 years, relations are witnessing a significant a shift and the beginning of an end to conventional ties. This marks the commencement of regional alliances, integration of Israeli interests into Africa’s Agenda 2063, and new international Silk Road. It also features approval of the Israeli-UAE joint project of opening an international trade corridor through the Negev, bypassing the Suez Canal. Across Africa, new regimes and elites have evolved, but are less committed to Arab issues and the question of Palestine. This a new indicator in the face of any Arab mobility in the continent. Backed by political shifts in Africa, Israel has recently come back strongly to the United Nations and its significant agencies.

Israel and South Africa: Shifts, strength and expediency of relations during and after the collapse of apartheid
Hisham Naffa’
In the post-apartheid era, South Africa immediately returned to and restored international bodies and alliances, reflecting the zenith of the transition period in 1994 and the iconic status of Nelson Mandela as a world-class statesman. The state institutions sought to present and have South Africa be viewed as a modern democratic state. In parallel, the importance of an integral part of capital economies declined. Later, under the rule of Thabo Mbeki, alliances with alternative powers were a strategic target of foreign policy. In part, this was driven by economic reasons, such as the growing trade relations with China and India. It was also a result of an ideological approach, which had its focus on challenging the structure of the world order. To this avail, South Africa would align with Russia, China, Brazil, and a number of Arab and Islamic states in confrontation of Western dominance.

Within the framework of these equations and in this environment, relations with Israel were given a low priority in South Africa. It was more economically profitable and more diplomatically meaningful to sponsor alliances with other Africans, who would serve as markets for South African commodities and hubs of diplomatic support for South African efforts to speak to the world on behalf of Africa. Alliances would also be established with Middle East countries as markets, oil suppliers, and partners in trade deals. This is also the case with emerging Asian powers, such as China and India for sure, but also with other states like Malaysia and Indonesia. Both economic and diplomatic benefit were greater. This overall shift frames the cause of Israel: a little can be gained out of good relations with a pariah state in the eyes of many countries in Africa and Asia, but is at the same time a strong ally of the United States and Western powers at large.

Israel and Sudan: From secret deliberations and deals to public relations
Wadi’ Awawdeh
This article demonstrates that the Israeli efforts to “make peace between” the Sudanese, tighten the grip on, offer political and economic bargains to, and push Sudan towards normalisation with Israel did not see light of the day by the United States mediation alone. Years earlier, Israel had sought assistance from European countries to that effect. In 2016, Israel engaged in secret deliberations with France, Italy, and other European countries. In addition to considering a debt write-off, Israel attempted to convince these countries to provide assistance to Sudan so that it could cope with its debts, nearly US$ 50 billion. Justifying Israel’s request, Israeli officials told their European counterparts that the economic collapse of Sudan would further destabilise that part of the Black Continent and increase momentum towards an escalation of terrorism. The pressing question remains: How does US President Donald Trump’s loss of the presidential election reflect on the ongoing efforts to translate the normalisation agreement with Sudan into reality? How does this impact the speed and depth of normalisation with the UAE, Bahrain, and probably others? In this particular context, according to Israeli sources, Saudi Arabia is playing a pivotal role behind the scenes in normalising relations between Israel and Sudan.

Israeli-Ethiopian relations: The challenges of domination and penetration in Africa
Ahmed Izz al-Din As’ad
Israel is betting on the significant role of African countries to achieve a breakthrough in international forums, particularly in relation to voting at the United Nations General Assembly. The continent of Africa includes 54 states. Excluding all 10 Arab states in the continent, this means that 44 African states can be used by Israel in its political, economic and other relations.
Israel views Ethiopia as one of the most important gateways to Africa, particularly in East Africa. Besides its influence in the African territory, Ethiopia is in close proximity to the Indian Ocean and Read Sea. According to the strategic vision of Israel, Ethiopia is a significant geopolitical asset. Israel works towards achieving a remarkable breakthrough and penetration in Ethiopia. To this avail, it supports the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam to achieve development in energy, water, agriculture, and other sectors. This development is associated with Israel as well as its companies, strategies, and desires. This way, Israel will be in control of Ethiopian relations when it deals with other Arab and non-Arab African states, which need energy, electricity, water, and agricultural expertise. Led by Israel, the Ethiopian development model can be rolled out to other African states, either through a direct Israeli role or through an Israeli-aligned Ethiopian role. Besides this penetration, a direct and indirect role comes with a political, economic, and diplomatic price, which Israel seeks to collect from the African continent. Israel will also make economic profits and largely benefit from land, crops, and manpower in Africa.

Israel-East Africa Relations
Yaron Salman
Diplomatic developments over the last decade point to the strengthening of Israel's foreign relations in sub-Saharan Africa. This article focuses on the ties between Israel and East Africa and argues that Israel's goal in strengthening relations is to improve its international standing and obtain political support in the UN arena. An examination of the voting patterns of four East African countries in the General Assembly in the years 2015-2018 shows that there is indeed political benefit, albeit limited, in strengthening Israel's foreign ties. The article recommends the continued provision of technological assistance for civilian-humanitarian development in East Africa, as, taking a broad perspective, this contributes to the achievement of political support for Israel at the UN and even to the enhancement of Israel’s reputation in the West, alongside economic and security benefits.

From modern Hebrew literature: A poem and commentary
Hayim Nahman Bialik’s poem To the Bird – a rhymed Zionist utopia
Malek Samarah


Prospects of Legal Action and the Discourse of Rights among Palestinians in Israel: Between Achieving Judicial Breakthroughs and Reproducing Power Relations
Raef Zreik
This article consists of three sections. Section 1 presents general observations on the nature and relationship of law with politics, ideology, and ethics. Section 2 places a special emphasis on the nature of the relationship between the discourse of rights and question of identity and history. Finally, Section 3 concludes with comments on the role of the discourse of rights and legal proceedings in the Palestinian case of Israel in particular. The account takes account of the specific characteristics of the State of Israel and Palestinian community in Israel. The article concludes that legal proceedings may reach certain milestones, but most often contribute to reproducing power relations operating from within. Still, legal action is of significance. It is capable of documenting and formulating Palestinian claims in a language and discourse based on the principles of human rights and citizenship, feeding and furnishing the political discourse with a condensed and clear language. It is absolutely difficult to know beforehand when and to what extent achievements can be made, and when legal accomplishments constitute a practice that contributes to reconsolidating the fait accompli.

The Triangle of Maternity
Gil Anidjar
I have long been fascinated by the assertion made by Horkheimer and Adorno in their statement: “Anti-Semitism is a repeated, well-rehearsed pattern and a polished mould.” Why do they consider anti-Semitism as a pattern? However, when I began to study mathematics, and geometry in particular, I have developed a somewhat clear vision of this matter, although it remains an open question. At any rate, I did not make significant progress in my study of mathematics. However, I have found that a simple set of geometric shapes and postulates can, empirically, be instrumental in my pursuit to formulate a condensed interpretation of anti-Semitism, the structures that have made it up overtime, and the methods by which it can, at present as they could in the past, be theorised by Horkheimer and Adorno. As put by Horkheimer and Adorno, “at present, these modular shapes are assigned to their mathematical positions, which are adjusted within power coordinates.” In what follows, I do not provide a historical or ethnographic presentation of anti-Semitism, or do I offer a comprehensive presentation. I will make a presentation that lays the foundations for some, and probably new, coordinates at a geometric level, in addition to probability vectors.

Amit Lynn
Over the past decade, a far reaching change has affected the public and authoritarian discourse in relation to the arrival of Jews from Arab states in the country. For years, this has been depicted along the lines of a story of religious and ideological immigration. Over a short span of time, however, the account shifted to a story of expulsion and refugeehood. Promoted by politicians, researchers, and representatives of organisations, the stated goal of this change in narrative was to achieve historical justice. Still, as confirmed by political bodies now, the main motive behind this hasty proposition was a desire to lay mines in the path of negotiations over a political agreement. All the more so, the state’s recognition of the shock of refugees from Arab states was only partial. This shock had already been “nationalised” in a manner that accommodated the state’s utilitarian approach to refugees’ stories, properties, and pain.

From the archive of the occupation – Implications and meanings
Encounter between Major General Danny Matt, Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, and Bassam Shakaa, Mayor of Nablus.
Introduction: Gadi El-Ghazi

Critical readings and book reviews
Danny Rubinstein, Either Us or Them – The Battle on Al-Qastal: The Decisive 24 Hours
Bilal Mohammed Shalash

Du Bois, W. E. B. The Negro
Mohammed Ka’dan

Library: A synopsis of latest Israeli publications
By Ali Zubeidat

Monday, September 27, 2021


The Palestinian Forum for Israeli Studies (MADAR) is an independent research centre specialising in Israeli affairs, based in Ramallah, Palestine. MADAR was established in 2000 by a group of Palestinian intellectuals and academics, including the late poet Mahmoud Darwish, Dr. Lily Feidy, Dr. Ali Jarbawi, Dr. Ahmad Harb, Mr. Walid Al-Ahmad and Mr. Akram Haniyyeh. The centre was registered as a not-for-profit organisation with the Palestinian Ministry of Interior, and obtained a research centre’s operational licensing from the Palestinian Ministry of Information.