Defeating Islamist extremism is the Israel-Africa bond, says Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who plans this year to visit Uganda, Kenya and possibly other African countries on the first official visit by a sitting Israeli head of state since 1987.
He plans to time his visit around the 40th anniversary of the Entebbe raid, a counter-terror, hostage-rescue mission that took place on July 4, 1976, according to the JerusalemPost.
Beyond marking the anniversary of the operation, the visit will allow Israel to further improve ties with African countries — especially on security issues, TheNation reported.
Defeating Islamist extremism is the strongest common interest between Israel and Africa countries, Netanyahu said in the Knesset at the launch of the new Knesset Caucus for Israel-Africa relations. The meeting included 13 African ambassadors and five consuls.
Operation Entebbe was carried out by commandos of the Israel Defense Forces at Entebbe Airport in Uganda, according to a NewYorkTimes report. The Isreaeli Defense Forces rescued an Air France plane with 248 passengers that had been hijacked by terrorists sympathetic to Palestinian liberation.
The Ugandan government supported the hijackers, and dictator Idi Amin personally welcomed them.
Netanyahu’s brother Yonatan, who headed the IDF operation, was the only Israeli casualty on the Israeli Defense Forces rescue team. Twenty Ugandan soldiers and seven hijackers were killed in the ensuing gun battle, along with several Ugandan citizens. The hostages were freed, except for a 75-year-old Israeli woman who had been transferred to a hospital. She was later killed on the orders Amin, TheNation reported.
“I’ve received an invitation from the president of Kenya and from others to come and visit Africa,” Netanyahu told ambassadors from African countries, according to TheNation. “I intend to do so around the 40th anniversary of the raid at Entebbe that was for us a very dramatic national experience. For me, obviously, one of great personal consequence.”
Over the last two months Netanyahu has met in Jerusalem with several African leaders. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta visited in February invited Netanyahu to visit. The foreign minister of Rwanda visited. Ethiopia’s deputy prime minister and Ghana’s foreign minister are scheduled to arrive this month, according to JerusalemPost.
Israel is formulating an “Africa strategy,” Netanyahu said.
“For too long you have come here and we have not come there, and we are going to change that,” he said.
He added that Israel and Africa’s rediscovery “should have happened a long time ago. It’s happening now because it’s so clear that this is good for Africa and it’s good for Israel. We face a multitude of challenges and opportunities.”
Islamist extremism threatens every country in Africa, Netanyahu said. “Its nexus is in the Middle East, but it is rapidly spreading. It can be defeated (but only) if the nations that are attacked by it, make a common cause. We understand the dangers of al-Shabaab. We understand the dangers of the other militants that threaten your countries in Africa, and we are prepared to work with you to defeat them. And it is possible to do so.”
Israel is also prepared to help Africa in other spheres including agriculture, healthcare, irrigation, science, technology, investment, tourism and cyber issues, according to the Jerusalem Post.
South Sudan’s Ambassador to Israel, Ruben Marial Benjamin, asked Netanyahu to visit his country.
“The African attitude towards Israel has changed and the time has come to look at our shared interests,” he said. “The people of South Sudan love Israel.”