ENTEBBE – Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday held talks with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and called for the opening of missions in each other’s’ countries.
There are two things we very much want to achieve… one is direct flights from Israel to Uganda,” “And second… you open an embassy in Jerusalem, I’ll open an embassy in Kampala,” Netanyahu told Museveni at a joint press conference.
And second, I have a simple suggestion that you'll have time to consider, Mr. President, my friend. You open an embassy in Jerusalem; I'll open an embassy in Kampala. And we hope to do this in the near future.
— PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) February 3, 2020
Such a move would be seen internationally as a statement of support for Israel’s claim for the city of Jerusalem to be its capital, a potential political win for Netanyahu less than a month before a national election on March 2.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu has proposed the issue of having direct flights between Tel Aviv and Entebbe, and this is something we are going to take up,” President Museveni said.
Meanwhile, the Israeli national carrier can begin flying to Uganda as soon as they are ready. pic.twitter.com/1SHJScgDDk
— Yoweri K Museveni (@KagutaMuseveni) February 3, 2020
Commenting on the issue of the Embassy, the Uganda president said: “If a friend says I want your embassy here rather than there I don’t see why there would be…,” he said before trailing off and continuing: “we are really working, we’re studying that.”
Uganda and Israel currently have no embassy in each other’s country. However, Israel’s embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, currently handles its relations with Uganda.
Traditionally, most diplomatic missions in Israel have been in Tel Aviv as countries maintained a neutral stance over the status of Jerusalem.
Palestinians claim East Jerusalem — captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war — for their own capital.
But US President Donald Trump shocked the world in December 2017 by recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and shifting the US embassy from Tel-Aviv to that city.
Netanyahu last visited Uganda in July 2016 to mark the 40th anniversary of a hostage rescue at Entebbe airport, in which his elder brother Yonatan died.
While here four years ago, Netanyahu said, “Israel is coming back to Africa and Africa is coming back to Israel in a big way.”
• Netanyahu to visit Uganda on Monday
He is currently on his fifth visit to Africa in less than four years. The continent is a lucrative market for defence equipment and the agriculture sector.
“We also, as you said, cooperate directly in many fields—in agriculture and education, in innovation,” Netanyahu said.
Adding: “The only thing we’ve been unable to replicate in Israel is the depth of the greenery here in Africa. It’s so beautiful, it’s so lush, and it’s so comforting.”
He also praised Museveni not only for being a man of the bible but also for his grasp of the two countries common heritage.
“You’re a man of the Bible. I’ll never forget your visit in Jerusalem, when you met my late father, the historian. And you spoke about the Bible and the roots of our common heritage. And I want to thank you for this long, long friendship,” said Netanyahu.
In recent years, Israel has boosted its links with African nations, improving ties following a difficult period when many post-independence African leaders sided with Israel’s Arab rivals, and viewed Israel’s support for apartheid South Africa with intense suspicion.
Africa Tembelea understands, Israel now has diplomatic relations with 39 of 47 sub-Saharan African states.