CAIRO — Arab efforts to foil the African-Israel Summit that had been scheduled for Oct. 23-27 in Togo's capital, Lome, have met with some success and are multiplying. The summit's theme is “Israel is coming back to Africa, and Africa is coming back to Israel,” but currently no one is going anywhere.
The effort against the event had been underway for months when Togo President Faure Gnassingbe told Israel in September the summit would be postponed so organizers could make better preparations. Opponents of the meeting, including Palestinians, claimed their protests led to the indefinite delay, though many observers, including Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon, attribute the change to growing unrest in Togo, where there have been fierce protests against Gnassingbe’s rule.
The latter seems ironic, as the summit's website promotes Togo as "a beacon of political and economic stability."
The Arab Parliament has been supporting efforts to derail the summit and announced back in July that it would ask political leaders not to attend. According to an Oct. 5 statement from the Arab Parliament, its leader Mishaal bin Fahm Al-Salami sent a special envoy to Tanzania, Ethiopia and Cameroon asking those parliaments to support a boycott. The statement emphasized Israel is the only country in the world occupying the lands of a whole people and persecuting them through blockade, forced displacement and arrest. The Arab Parliament also said it sent official boycott requests via letters to other African countries' parliaments, but it hasn't revealed the results yet.
Salami told Al-Monitor by phone that the Arab Parliament continues to remind its members of their support of Palestinians, whose rights are non-negotiable. He added, “The summit increases the risk of Israeli infiltration in the African continent.”
A Sept. 11 statement from the Palestinian Foreign Ministry said the likelihood of getting the summit canceled completely is growing. More than 50 African countries were invited, and 20-30 presidents were expected to come.
Palestinian Ambassador to South Africa Hashem Dajani told Al-Monitor by phone from Johannesburg that sessions of the Pan African Parliament (PAP) in South Africa, taking place Oct. 9-20, are providing a good opportunity to discuss more extensively with African countries’ delegations the need to boycott the summit. Dajani gave an official speech before the PAP on behalf of the Palestinian territories.
Dajani said, “Many Arab and African countries, including Egypt, are working alongside the Palestinians to garner support for foiling the summit.”
South Africa and Morocco also voiced their objection to the summit, especially since Gnassingbe did not consult the African Union before announcing the decision to hold the event. In addition, the African and Foreign Affairs committees of the Egyptian Parliament have called for urgent action to garner support for canceling the summit.
Tarek el-Khouly, the secretary of the Foreign Affairs Committee of Egypt's Parliament, told Al-Monitor, “The Israeli infiltration in Africa threatens Egypt’s national security.” He added, "The peace agreement [of 1979] was not enough deterrence for the intermittent cold war between Cairo and Tel Aviv.”
He argued that Israel is targeting Egypt politically by trying to earn a spot in Africa and the Nile Basin region, a goal made clear by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s July 2016 visits to several upstream Nile countries. Netanyahu’s African tour included Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia. A delegation of 80 officials representing more than 50 Israeli companies accompanied him.
Khouly added, “Due to the pressure on Egypt in the Nile waters issue and the Egyptian-Ethiopian dispute regarding the [Grand Ethiopian] Renaissance Dam effects, Egypt has become vulnerable to its opponents, like Israel, Qatar and Turkey, which are targeting it by expanding their influence in Africa.”
He added that Israel’s claims about having economic interests in Africa are unconvincing, with the dwindling impact of African economic partnerships that are being used for political ends.
The declared agenda on the official page of the African-Israel Summit included a roundtable ministerial dialogue about the water challenges in Africa and Israel’s potential solutions. Another article of discussion was agriculture, including a general session about the economics of water and agriculture in African countries.
PAP member Hatem Bashat told Al-Monitor by phone from Johannesburg that Israel is facing tough resistance to the summit from within the PAP. The proof is that Israel has not been granted membership as an observer state in the African Union, despite its constant demands.