Israel Seeks AU Observer Status

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Israeli President Reuren Rivlin has asked Liberia, through President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who is currently on a state visit to Israel, to see whether she could influence her colleagues in the African Union (AU) to grant Israel an observer status at the continental body.

A report in the Jerusalem Post quoted President Sirleaf as saying that many African countries “have friends on both sides, and we have relationships on both sides,” referring to the Palestinian – Israeli conflict.

She, however, pledged Liberia’s support, saying if there is a way to help, she would do so.

“One of the things we all say is that we need peace in the world,” President Sirleaf told her Israeli counterpart.

Liberia, along with other African countries, severed relations with the State of Israel in 1973 in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War. The Yom Kippur War (also known as the Ramadan War and the October War) was a war between Israel and a group of Arab countries led by Egypt and Syria. The war took place from October 6-24, 1973. The war began on the Jewish festival of Yom Kippur in 1973, which corresponds with the Muslim month of Ramadan. The attack by Egypt and Syria was a surprise to Israel. Egypt’s army entered the Sinai Peninsula, and Syria’s army entered the Golan Heights.

Although Liberia renewed its relationship with Israel in August 1983, the Liberian civil war of 1990 caused Israel to close its embassy in Monrovia. However, relations were upgraded following President Sirleaf’s election in 2006.

During her visit recently, President Sirleaf commented on religious fundamentalism that is now plaguing the world, and informed the Israeli President that West Africa has been hit by terrorism, instigated by Muslim fundamentalists.

“This kind of penetration by terrorists can undermine the peace we have had; and Liberia can benefit in this regard from any additional knowledge and intelligence that Israel has to offer,” she added.

President Sirleaf previously visited Israel in 2007, and was in the country Tuesday to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Haifa.

According to a report by the Jerusalem Post, the two leaders discussed the long friendship between their countries, with President Sirleaf commenting that the relationship goes back to Israel’s very beginnings as a state. Liberia voted in favor of the partition of Palestine in the United Nations vote taken on November 29, 1947.

The report described President Sirleaf as soft spoken and an extraordinarily influential woman, who has spent a couple of spells in prison on political grounds and who has served in senior positions at the United Nations, the World Bank and other prestigious financial institutions.

“Her role models used to be powerful women such as Margaret Thatcher and Indira Gandhi, in whose footsteps she followed until she ran into Nelson Mandela,” the newspaper wrote about President Sirleaf’s past struggles for justice and democracy in Liberia.

With reference to Nelson Mandela, President Sirleaf said, “He made us more conscious of humanity. We have tried to bring back some of the freedoms lost during years of militancy and conflict.”

The paper made further reference to the Ebola crisis, and noted that Ebola was more than a health crisis for Liberia. It also affected the country’s economy. Many investors left the country and it is now going through a period of re-growth.

“Similarly, during the years of conflict as well as the health crisis the educated class left the country, and Liberia is now in the process of rebuilding its education system,” the newspaper reported.

“The challenges are many, but we continue to be resilient,” Madam Sirleaf was quoted as saying.

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