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Is Somalia moving to establishing diplomatic ties with Israel?

Unverified Israeli media reports claim that Somali president will consult his parliament regarding possibility of normalization with Israel

Somalia's President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and newly appointed Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre address delegates at the Presidential Palace in Mogadishu, Somalia June 15, 2022. (Photo: Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS)

Unverified reports by Israel’s Channel 12 news and the Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation state that Somalia may be considering diplomatic relations with Israel.

Somali President Hassan Sheik Mohamud will consult his parliament regarding the possibilities of establishing diplomatic ties with Israel, according to Israeli media. 

Last month, Somalia media reported that the country’s president had been in contact with Israeli officials during a trip to the United Arab Emirates. One report even stated that he secretly flew to Israel – a claim which has been denied. 

Mohamud previously served in office prior to 2017 and is said to have secretly met with former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel in 2016.

The Times of Israel reported that when he returned to office in May of this year, a Somali diplomat with close ties to the president said Mohamud’s return to power was good news for possible normalization of relationships between Mogadishu and Jerusalem.

Somalia, which is mostly Sunni Muslim and a member of the Arab League, has never recognized the State of Israel, although in recent years there have been sporadic reports of a strengthening of ties between the two countries. 

According to a senior official believed to be close to the president, a low-level diplomatic meeting was held in Jerusalem in 2015 which included members of the Israel Ministry of Economy and Industry and Somali officials.  

This report of a possible normalization of diplomatic ties with Somalia comes at a time of strengthening relations between Israel and several Arab countries, as well as a push on the part of Israel to strengthen its ties with African nations.

Channel 12 also reported that the president of Somaliland – an autonomous and mostly stable region of the country – recently told U.S. officials that he had tried to make contact with Israeli government officials, but without success.

Last May, the Israeli embassy in France hosted French and African journalists, diplomats, businessmen and artists at a conference to consider the prospects of Israeli cooperation with African countries and businesses. Somaliland sent a representative to the conference.

On Sept. 15, 2020, the Abraham Accords were signed, officially declaring the normalization of diplomatic relations between Israel with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. Sudan also announced its intent to join in October of that year followed by Morocco which normalized relations in December 2020.

Historically, Israel had strong relations with post-colonial African states. As early as 1956, diplomatic relations were established between Israel and Ghana followed by other countries. In 1958, Israel sent a large number of experts in agriculture and other areas to help these fledgling countries in state-building. When Golda Meir was prime minister she was very sensitive to the cause of the emerging black nations.

However, following wars in 1967 and 1973 and with the emergence of African Arab governments in the north and other Muslim countries across Asia, support for Israel in Africa waned. By 1973, Idi Amin the dictator of Uganda, cut ties with Israel and by January of 1973, Niger, Chad, Congo and Mali followed.

Following the Yom Kippur War in 1973, pressure from Arab oil-producing countries came into play with the launching of an oil embargo on countries which had supported Israel during the war. 

In a bid to replace Israeli influence in Africa, Arab governments promised cheap oil and financial aid. With the exception of Malawi, Lesotho and Swaziland, African governments began breaking ties with Israel following Egypt’s sponsorship of a resolution in May 1973 that was passed by the Organisation of African Unity, which condemned Israel’s occupation of Egyptian territories. 

The Abraham Accords – orchestrated by former U.S. President Donald Trump and his son-in-law and advisor, Jared Kushner – have dramatically changed the geopolitical structure of the Middle East. Israel and the other nations involved now hope to expand the circle of allies.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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