Israel definitively banned from the African Union

The incident had left its mark

Israel definitively banned from the African Union

The incident had left its mark. In February 2023, during the previous African Union (AU) summit, an Israeli delegation was unceremoniously expelled from the AU General Assembly as discussions began between the continent's heads of state, in Addis Ababa. South Africa and Algeria, the two countries behind the sidelining of Israeli representatives, opposed the presence of the Jewish state as an observer member within the organization. pan-African. But the question had not been formally resolved.

A year after this diplomatic incident, the war in the Gaza Strip put an end to this debate. “The file concerning the accreditation of Israel is closed,” confides a senior AU official. The organization has suspended its observer status. “Israel is not invited to the summit,” said Ebba Kalondo, spokesperson for the chair of the AU commission, on Saturday February 17. After a decade of diplomatic efforts and two years after its accreditation, Tel Aviv is therefore definitively banned from the institution.

Conversely, the African Union rolled out the red carpet for the Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, Mohammad Shtayyeh, who enjoyed, from the podium of the General Assembly, the long applause of the heads of state of a continent mostly committed to its cause. “The Palestinians are defending their country as you, in Africa, had defended your lands against colonialism,” he said in front of the audience of African leaders.

The latter did not hold back their blows when condemning the Israeli offensive, "the most flagrant" violation of international humanitarian law, in the words of the President of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, who accuses Israel of wanting to “exterminate” the inhabitants of Gaza.

ICJ ruling against Israel celebrated at AU

After him, Comorian President Azali Assoumani thanked South Africa for filing a complaint with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to denounce “the genocide that Israel is committing before our eyes”. The Comorian leader, who was re-elected in January at the head of the archipelago after a vote marred by fraud, distinguished himself in September 2023 with an anti-Semitic outing. “We must live with the Catholics but also with the cursed Jews, may the wrath of God fall on them. The Jews are the masters of the world. They are not like us. They lurk in the shadows and reveal themselves at the opportune moment,” he declared during the inauguration of a mosque on the island of Anjouan.

In January, ICJ judges ruled in favor of Pretoria, which had filed a request at the end of December 2023, accusing Israel of genocide against the Palestinians in Gaza. “This is one of the greatest achievements in African diplomacy,” said Liesl Louw-Vaudran, researcher at the International Crisis Group. A victory celebrated by the representatives of Pretoria in Addis Ababa.

But after the euphoria, the charismatic South African Foreign Minister, Naledi Pandor, expressed concern “about the presence of Israeli representatives in the premises of the African Union in recent days”. Indeed, on Wednesday, the Israeli ambassador to Ethiopia was seen within the building. The deputy director general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry for Africa, Sharon Bar-li – the person expelled from the AU in 2023 – is holding discreet meetings in the Ethiopian capital, according to several diplomatic sources. When contacted, the Israeli embassy in Addis Ababa did not respond to requests from Le Monde.

An influential state on the continent

If Israel is now officially banned from the AU, Africa is still divided over it. This is evidenced by the vote on the resolution calling for an immediate humanitarian truce in Gaza at the United Nations on October 27. Thirty-eight African countries supported it but seven abstained. Israeli influence remains significant on the continent, the result of a long-term diplomatic offensive led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the past decade.

In recent years, Israel's efforts have resulted in the normalization of its relations with many states as well as strengthened cooperation in the field of defense and security. Morocco, Ghana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Kenya are cited among Israel's closest collaborators on the continent. Partnerships established in exchange for support in cybersecurity – embodied by the sale of Pegasus spyware (from the Israeli company NSO Group) – or military cooperation agreements, such as the sale and assembly project of drones Israelis in Morocco.