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Israel’s Newest Friend: South Sudan

Reflecting upon her work spearheading Israel’s outreach to new African nations in the years following Israel’s establishment, Golda Meir wrote, “Like them, we had shaken off foreign rule; like them, we had to learn for ourselves how to reclaim the land, how to increase the yields of our crops, how to irrigate, how to raise poultry, how to live together, and how to defend ourselves.”

That practice continues to this day. Following years of support for South Sudan’s struggle against the north, Ynet reports that Israel has welcomed the world’s newest nation by immediately establishing ties with its private sector as well:

According to Attorney Adi Braunstein, the legal advisor of the Israeli-Arab Friendship Association, military and moral support to the South Sudan rebels throughout the years is now expressed in economic cooperation.

This cooperation, he says, will lead to deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars, the payment of which will be guaranteed by the international community.

The required fields of cooperation include security, agriculture, medicine and even the capital market, as the South Sudan government is looking to establish a stock exchange in the new country.

Israeli defense experts have already contacted their South Sudanese counterparts to bid for contracts involving the training of armed forces and police, as well as fortifying the presidential convoy of Salva Kiir Mayardit. Electronics firms are seeking to open offices there, and travel agencies are looking to add vacation packages to South Sudan as well. And, according to the story, a “dairy farm in the Golan Heights has been asked for advice on cattle herds for milk production.”

Israel’s outreach to Africa has been a key component of Israeli foreign and trade policy since the country’s early days. As Martin Gilbert recounts in Israel: A History, three weeks after Ghana became independent in 1957, Israel opened an embassy there. Israel then signed agreements with Mali, Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso), Madagascar, and Dahomey (now Benin). Israelis helped Cameroon with its crops, Senegal with its bees, and Uganda with its citrus fruits. By 1966, Israeli military experts were training forces in Ethiopia, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda and Zaire. Israeli-built hotels went up in Dahomey, the Central African Republic and Togo. More recently, Israeli doctors have been helping the fight against AIDS by training doctors in Swaziland and South Africa to perform circumcisions.

It will be interesting to see where all this heads, including whether there will be enough political stability in South Sudan for all these plans to come to fruition. But it’s one more African nation grateful for Israel’s existence, and another friend Israel seems glad to have.



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