Israel’s door swings both ways for Africa
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma and his ministerial delegation. The two leaders discussed the possibility of an Israeli delegation going to Sierra Leone to evaluate assistance in various fields: Water, Communications, Energy and Security.
The possibility that Israel might enlist other countries to assist Sierra Leone was also raised.
“President Koroma, it’s a pleasure to welcome you and your delegation to Jerusalem. I appreciate our friendship. It dates back to the 1960s and it’s continued since then.” said Netanyahu opening the meeting.
RIGHT: Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Bai Koroma (Kobi Gideon, GPO)
Netanyahu reminded Koroma that they “had the opportunity to meet at the UN in an extraordinary exhibit of Israeli technology in Africa, and you expressed the interest of strengthening the ties between us.”
Netanyahu said that he thought “this is fertile ground, literally, and in many ways. Fertile ground in the sense of, obviously, assisting you in your main endeavor which is agriculture, but also in other areas,” said Bibi, suggesting that opportunities existed “in high-tech, in energy, in water, the management of crops, the productivity of crops and many, many other areas.”
The Israeli leader said that his country, like the rest of the world, “watched with great concern the great battle that you fought against Ebola.” Israel thought that it was important, said the PM, adding for emphasis: “I thought it was important that Israel send assistance.”
Israel dispatched a field hospital and became one of the African country’s major cash donors as well. “We have other assistance that we’re offering in the field of health, like the dialysis centre in Freetown Hospital and drugs, medicine. But the most important thing is that you have contained this disease,” said Netanyahu, “and you’re overcoming it, and we know what a great battle that was and what a burden it still is – the residual effects.”
Equally, said the PM, he knew that the country had suffered “the ruins of a horrible civil war from which you’re recovering now.” Israel, said Netanyahu, wanted to offer assistance, to help build Sierra Leone to a brighter and better future.
“This is something that you are leading and we’re more than ready to help Sierra Leone rebuild its country and build a future for its people,” said the PM..
It was in that spirit, said Netanyahu, that he welcome President Koroma to Jerusalem.
“You know that Israel is coming back to Africa in a big way, and Africa is coming back to Israel,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu..
He reiterated his intention to visit West Africa in 2017, “at least once, possibly twice, for a gathering of leaders, so this will be an opportunity to meet you again as this one is an opportunity to further strengthen our ties,” said the PM in his welcome address.
For his part, President Koroma’s began his opening address saying: “Let me at the outset express profound sympathy to the victims and the families of victims of the recent truck attack here in Jerusalem.
“Any act of violence, any wanton destruction of lives and properties anywhere demands condemnation by everyone,” he said. While he deplored the attack, Koroma said: “I believe that the cause to a lasting solution of every conflict is not the shedding of innocent blood. It is in the exercise of restraint and constructive dialogue. This may be long, tiring and painful, but ultimately it is the surest path for a peaceful resolution to conflict.”
Koroma pointed out that relations between Sierra Leone and Israel pre-dated the independence of both countries, and, like many long-standing relationships, “we have experienced some turbulence,” he said. “But history has taught us that while we may remember, we may do well not to dwell on the dull moments, especially when the lights of the bright movements continue to sparkle.”
President Koroma said that he was heartened by Israel’s efforts in rebuilding relations with Africa. “To this end I applaud your recent visit to a number of African countries and your unique and historic meeting with African leaders in the October UN General Assembly meeting,” he said.
“Sierra Leone is grateful to the government and the people of the State of Israel for the support you provided us during our very difficult moment in the fight against Ebola. It is only a friend will support a friend that is in need. And the Sierra Leonean people are most grateful for that.”
Rekindling long-standing fraternal relationship
Koroma’s closing words are reprinted verbatim from the PM’s website:
“Mr Prime Minister, we believe that it is about time to rekindle our long-standing bilateral fraternal relationship. My delegation and I are in Israel to strengthen those political and economic ties founded by those before us.
“We are here to seek greater cooperation in the various fields and aspects of socio-economic development including in agriculture, in water, ICT, defense and security. I am delighted to have been exposed to the capacity of Israel.
“In the past few hours we have had meetings of various sectors and we believe that we are here to cooperate at a government-to-government level and also invite the Israeli private sector to go out there and explore investment opportunities. I believe that both countries can work strongly together in the interest of both countries, in our efforts in repositioning our relationship as it was just about independence.
“Let me also seize this moment to extend an invitation to you in your next tour of Africa to visit Sierra Leone.”