Israel says it has been negotiating in vain to establish an observer status with the African Union (AU) akin to the one it held with the former Organization of African Unity.
Sharon Bar-Li, director of Africa Economic Affairs in Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said establishing observer status with the African Union has been a priority of her government.
"Closer dialogue, closer exchange will only benefit our countries on the economic level on the political level on the security level on the development level. Israel is a first world country today, which was a developing country just a few decades ago,” she said. “Africa has a lot to benefit if African Union supports Israel. It does not mean that you support every Israeli government policy, as I said before, we can have arguments but it is a platform for dialogue."
Israel was an observer member of the Organization of African Unity until 2002, when it was dissolved and replaced by the African Union. It was blocked from being included as an AU observer by the late Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.
Yoram Elron, head of the African division in Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said even without the support of the AU his country has succeeded in establishing bilateral ties with 10 African nations. He regrets the African Union is instead showing sympathy to Palestine which was granted observer status in 2013.
"One point is our relations with the African Union which is not in line with the good relations that we have individually and bilaterally with many of the African countries. We use to have the status of an observer under the previous Organization of African Unity,” Elron explained. “Because of Libyan pressure namely [Moammar] Gadhafi, [Libya's former leader] this status was revoked when the African Union was established in 2000 and since then it has not been renewed and this is something definitely for us a source of concern and we have asked leaders of friendly countries to see how this can be overcome. Unfortunately we have had no success until now."
The African Union, like the United Nations, has been expressing concerns over what they call the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and other Arab territories, which they say violate international law and generate conflicts.