Netanyahu joins African leaders at Uganda summit
Netanyahu joins African leaders at Uganda summitKobi Gideon/GPO

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday lauded a "milestone" in Israeli-African relations, as he kicked off a summit with leaders from seven African nations in Uganda.

"This meeting I think will be a milestone, the meeting of seven leaders from African countries with Israel. I think it underscores the fact that we are in a monumental change in the relations between Israel and Africa, beginning here," Netanyahu said at the start of the summit, which came hours after a landmark speech together with the Ugandan president.

Israel's much-vaunted "return to Africa" after years in which relations with many - though not all - African countries were lukewarm,  "is warranted by the great changes that are taking place in the world," the Israeli prime minister stated.

"We at once have an enormous boost and jump towards development, towards the possibilities of this new century, with all the promises of technology; but at the same time, we have a savage medievalism that seeks to take all our societies back, to destroy them, destroy our freedoms and destroy our hopes," he declared, referring to the rise of Islamic terrorism.

"So we at once have to do two things: Develop our countries into the future, and fight back the forces that want to take us to a dark past. And we can do this," Netanyahu added. "I believe Israel is the perfect partner for the countries of Africa."

Netanyahu insisted that the efforts to strengthen Israeli-African ties were note mere "lip service." 

"We've begun to do it among our respective countries. But I believe that we see opportunities in expanding this to Africa as a whole.

"Israel has fought terrorism and has developed, as you said Mr. President today, we've developed certain capacities, which I think are important for the defense of the world against this global onslaught of terrorism," he said, turning to Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. "But equally, we have tremendous opportunities.

"We've solved our water problem, even though we're a very dry land. We've solved our agricultural problem. We produce, with great productivity, vegetables, dairy. I'm always boasting which cow produces more milk per cow in the world. You think it's a French cow or a Dutch cow? It's an Israeli cow. It's a computerized cow, every moo is monitored, you know?"

"But we are eager to share this technology in so many fields with our African friends," he continued. "We think that Israel now is the best partner that the countries of Africa could have, and it's something that is dear to our hearts.

"The founder of modern Zionism, the national movement of the Jewish people, was Theodore Herzl, and he said, 'After I liberate the Jewish people, I will go to Africa to help liberate the black people.'

"We have our African brethren, the Ethiopian Jews, who are in our society, and I personally work every few weeks to help integrate more and more and incorporate in our society.

"I believe this. I believe in Africa. I believe in your future and I believe in our partnership for this future. And I believe that this meeting will be seen as a turning point in Israel's ability to reach a broad number of African countries, which is our goal. We want a better future for you, a better future for all of us, and we think we can be your perfect partners."