Benjamin Netanyahu is starting to reap the rewards of a strategy he has undertaken as prime minister: Restoring and building relations with African nations.
Just three weeks ago Israel announced a peace agreement with Sudan — a formerly hostile state — and last week Malawi said it would open an embassy in Jerusalem, adding to the number of countries that recognize the city as Israel’s capital.
“This is a great day because of your decision to move your embassy to Jerusalem, which is our eternal capital from the time of King David,” Netanyahu told Malawi Foreign Minister Eisenhower Mkaka whom he hosted last week in Israel. “We welcome Malawi as a friend. We've always had excellent relations and they're going to be even better.”
Mkaka said the move represents “a bold and significant step.” Malawi, a majority Christian nation, would become the first African country to open an embassy in Jerusalem, following the United States and Guatemala in the last few years.
Netanyahu said a strategic focus of his tenure as Israel's helm has been to restore and build relations on the African continent.
“I've been to Africa five times as prime minister. Before that, 20 years and more, no visits.” he said referring to the lack of outreach to Africa preceding his term.
“So understand that I attach enormous importance to our relations with African countries, with your country as well. We've just had the establishment of our relations with Sudan and Chad.”
Malawi is one of few African countries to have maintained continuous diplomatic ties with Israel since its independence in 1964.
“This joins our African effort, which is a big effort, and we look forward to strengthening the ties between Israel and Malawi in agriculture, health, cybersecurity, every area that I think lends itself to cooperation,” Netanyahu continued. “I welcome you in the spirit of cooperation and friendship. Welcome. Please convey my best wishes to the president. I look forward to seeing him here in the Malawi embassy in Jerusalem. As we say, 'Next year in Jerusalem.’’”
Malawi is expected to open its embassy sometime in 2021. It is unknown when Israel will open an embassy in Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe.
Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi called Malawi a “pioneer” and said the country's decision adds to the “widening circle of peace.”
“I look forward to your embassy opening soon, and I’m sure that more African leaders will follow this decision,” he said.