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Israel's seat at the African Union

The deal-making has paid off and Israel will send a delegation to the next AU summit

Israel's success in winning observer status at the African Union reflects relentless lobbying by ex-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government. Israel's diplomatic opening with Morocco and Sudan last year were in part facilitated by the United States under Donald Trump's presidency, as well as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

At odds for decades with the AU and its predecessor organisation over their recognition of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic in Western Sahara, Morocco rejoined the pan-African organisation in 2017.

With skilful deal-making last year, Morocco agreed to recognise Israel if Washington was to recognise Rabat's sovereignty over the Western Sahara. Morocco's and Israel's intelligence services have long cooperated against their common enemies such as Islamist militants. Direct flights between Israel and Morocco began last weekend, months after Rabat recognised Israel (AC Vol 61 No 17, Terms of re-engagement).

Israel may be less welcome by some delegations at AU summits following the revelations that South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly and Morocco's King Mohammed VI, as well as French President Emmanuel Macron, were on the target list of Israeli firm NSO's Pegasus spyware.

Algeria, Morocco's neighbour and regional rival, has quickly denounced Israel's new status and insists that it will make no difference to the AU's stance on the Israel/Palestine conflict, which is strongly pro–Palestinian.

Israel, which maintains relations with 46 African countries, strengthened ties with the continent during Netanyahu's premiership but plans to hold an Israel–Africa summit were postponed several times and then indefinitely shelved (AC Vol 58 No 24, Bibi goes vote shopping). New prime minister Naftali Bennett and Israel's latest coalition government have yet to state their position on African ties. This month, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid made his first diplomatic trip to the UAE, which is taking a close interest in developments in the Horn of Africa.



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