Netanyahu meets with Kenyan President on strengthening cooperation and bilateral ties

Prime Minister Netanyahu traveled to Kenya Tuesday where he met with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta as part of his tour in Africa. Their meeting was centered on increasing bilateral ties as well as cooperation in the areas of security, defense, sustainability, development and diplomacy.

Both leaders addressed the press following their meeting, President Kenyatta referring to Netanyahu’s visit as “very historic” as it is the “first time in over two decades that an Israeli Premier has set foot on African soil and it is remarkable on that account alone.”

Kenyatta addressed the 40th anniversary of Operation Entebbe in which African leaders held a ceremony with Prime Minister Netanyahu in Uganda on Monday, speaking of Kenya’s history and support for Israel from then till now, stating that “both in practice and principle as they [Israel] carried out the operation in Entebbe in 1976. And indeed, as a country we also paid the price for many of our people who were subsequently killed in Uganda by Idi Amin as a result of the support that we gave.” He stated that following the success of the Operation “goodwill eventually prevailed over evil, right over wrong, and today indeed as we remember that heroic undertaking and the valiant efforts of those including the Prime Minister’s own brother, it should be a source of incredible encouragement and hope to a world that is increasingly standing together to counter the callousness and cruelty of terrorism, something Kenya and Israel have always done together.”

Kenyatta summarized his meeting with Netanyahu, confirming “ongoing talks about how to strengthen and expand that cooperation so that we can gain from Israel’s expertise in cyber security, amongst other things that we also discussed,” as well as “agriculture and water and its related elements, health, and these projects and these are areas that we wish to continue to benefit from the indispensable technical support that Israel continues to give.” He highlighted that “Israel earlier this year agreed to increase the number of students that they will train, especially in the agricultural and irrigation initiative, from 30 to 45,” stating that Kenya will “be flying off a number of those students today.” He also announced “as we concluded our official engagement, we’re witnessing the signing of a couple of agreements that will see us cooperating more closely in areas of health and immigration. The agreements will allow us to build the capacity of our health systems and professionals in the area of emergency preparedness and resource, as well as specialized medical services.”

On diplomatic relations between Africa and Israel, Kenyatta stated that in their meeting they “also discussed ways and we agreed that there is need also to see how we can get to have Israel re-establish her relations with Africa and we think this is important… The nature of the global problems that we now share are different from what they were some 30 years ago,” stating that Israel and Kenya “need to partner with each other, we need to be able to deal with the security threats that we have together and we believe that there is need for us as a continent to once again begin re-engaging Israel on a more positive basis, with an understanding that our partnership can help make this world that much more secure.”

The President announced his commitment to assist Israel in regaining observer status in the African Union, stating “this is something that Kenya will continue to push, to see how Israel can regain her observer position at the African Union and I believe that this is not just good for Kenya. It is good for Africa, it is good for global peace, it is good for partnership.” Israel lost its observer status in 2002 after votes from several African Arab states to remove Israel from the 54-state union.

He ended his address stating “We look forward to our continued partnership and we look forward to even further engagement as we move forward for the mutual interests of our two nations and for the prosperity of our two peoples.”

Netanyahu spoke following Kenyatta, beginning his address focusing on Israel’s status in the African Union. He stated “We just heard something very important from the President of Kenya who said very clearly that he and his colleagues, whom I met with yesterday, would work to restore Israel as an observer to the African Union. This is very significant from our point-of-view. Africa is a continent with 54 countries. The possibility of changing their direction and their attitude toward Israel would be a strategic change in Israel’s international position. This starts in one place, this effort, that the President has defined, to make Israel an observer to the African Union… This will have an impact in Africa now, but I think that it will have very considerable effect regarding Israel’s international relations in the future, vis-à-vis our effort to bring about a very great number of countries that support Israel.”

Netanyahu referred to Kenya-Israel relations as a natural partnership “because Israel and Kenya are natural partners. We face common challenges, the first among them is…terror,” referring to “the horrific carnage in the Westgate shopping mall and in the Garissa University. Innocent men, women, children hunted down by bloodthirsty murderers,” stating that “tragically we in Israel have also experienced such attacks on our oil soil against our own civilians. I have to say that the terrorists see us all as one enemy. And that is why we must remain united in our common war. We are… And I know that working together will help us defeat the scourge of this terror even faster. And when I say working together it’s Kenya, Israel and other African countries that have an equal stake in defeating the forces of this radicalism that threatens all our societies.”

On cooperation in “common opportunities in technology, water, agriculture, cyber and much more,” Netanyahu spoke of Israel’s founding “without any natural resources,” and abilities and success in doing “more with less.” He stated that “the only natural resource we had was our brain and our heart. And we’ve learned to do a lot, to do more with less. We have less water, natural water today, substantially less water than we had at the founding of Israel but our population has grown tenfold and our GDP per capita has grown 40 times. But we don’t have a water shortage, we have a water surplus. It’s all because we use technology. We do more with less. The same is true of agriculture, the same is true of energy and so many other areas.”

He announced that Israel is “more than happy to partner with you because we believe you have the same potential. We believe that Africa is a continent on the rise and the rising tide will help everyone. A rising tide lifts all ships. And working together we all stand to benefit. And people, citizens of Kenya who are listening to this should know that the practical result of our cooperation can be greater prosperity and greater security for each and every one of them.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu left Kenya for Rwanda ahead of his final stop in Ethiopia during his Africa tour.

This article originally appeared on Behold Israel, July 6, 2016, and reposted with permission.