This decision by the AU Commission to grant the State of Israel an observer status, a move that had been rejected for nearly two decades, has triggered criticism with several African countries saying its admission is incompatible with the values and principles of the AU charter.
Many are demanding an “explanation and outright reversal” of the decision.
Israel, however, is delighted with this milestone when it acknowledged that “this is a day of celebration for Israel-Africa relations,” noting that the achievement “corrects the anomaly that has existed for almost two decades.”
“Israel’s observer status will enable greater cooperation, among other things, in the fight against Corona and the prevention of the spread of extremist terrorism throughout the continent,” the country’s foreign ministry stated in a statement.
Pleased by its decision, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was quick to congratulate the AU “for its leadership in building bridges and creating new avenues for exchange,” adding that the country welcomes “Israel’s return to the African Union as an observer as part of our support for broader normalization.”
Joining the African Union is a diplomatic goal Israel had been working to achieve for nearly two decades.
Israel attained observer status at the African Union on July 22 2021, after 19 diplomatic efforts.
It had previously held observer status at the Organization of African Unity (OAU).
This status was however lost in 2002 when the OAU was replaced by the AU.
“The key objective behind Israel’s longstanding effort to gain access to the AU has been undermining Palestinian efforts to influence the continental stance on the situation in Israel/Palestine and, by implication, the stance of independent African states on the matter,” Al-Jazeera analyst Marwan Bishara opined.
Meanwhile, Palestine has long had observer status in the African Union. For decades, African countries have supported the Palestinian liberation struggle against Israel, seeing in it parallels with their own anti-colonial movements.
Some African Union Member States have criticized Israel’s observer status. Seven African-Arab countries including Algeria, Egypt, Comoros, Tunisia, Djibouti, Mauritania and Libya reportedly delivered a verbal note to Mr Faki rejecting the admittance of Israel into the AU.
According to the Algerian Foreign Ministry, “The recent decision of the President of the Commission of the African Union (AU) to welcome a new observer who falls under its administrative prerogatives is not likely to alter the constant and active support of the continental organization to the just Palestinian cause,” the statement read in part.
Analysts fear that Africa may become a more overt arena for Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic competition.
Joining AU is seen as a crucial step in Israel’s effort to normalize diplomatic ties with African states like it first did with Sudan and Morocco as part of the US-backed Abraham Accords, which followed Israel’s normalization of ties with Chad in 2019.
Israel’s admittance to the AU places it alongside 87 other observer states outside Africa. But unlike the AU, Europe and Asian continental blocs have not granted observer status to any African country.
Similarly, efforts by at least two African countries to join the European Union have been unsuccessful.