Israel and Somalia – long-lost brothers? – Opinion




Israel and Somalia - long-lost brothers?

Somali security officers are assessing the scene of a suicide car bomb explosion at the Naso Hablod Two Hotel Gate in Hamarweyne County, Mogadishu, Somalia on October 29, 2017.
(photo credit: REUTERS)

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Israel and Somalia have much in common.

Israel faces many adversaries who do not recognize it, nor the right to self-determination; Somaliland is also generally not recognized as a state.

They both share history with Britain. The British defeated the Ottoman Empire, captured Palestine, and later established treaties with the Jewish people of Israel. Somaliland tribal leaders gave the British a protectorate on the territory that became British Somaliland and later gained independence on June 26, 1960. Israel was the first of 34 countries, including the United States, to recognize Somaliland.

Somaliland, who joined the union in southern Somalia, which lasted until 1991, found himself politically isolated in the midst of an enemy region endangered by a sinister and malignant enemy in the form of interference with religious extremism. With a population of four million, Somaliland faces a tough opposition from wider Somalia with a population of 10 million. Israel is perceived as a hostile Arab world with an estimated population of 400 million and an economic force of $ 2.5 trillion a year. Somalia and Israel face a strong opposition and almost complete rejection of 22 Arab countries that support the positions of Somalia and Palestinian Arabs.

Despite the staggering obstacles, both Somaliland and Israel will defeat the chances. Israel is one of the most developed countries in the Middle East and the world, with an annual income per capita of USD 42,000 and prosperous and sophisticated industries. Israeli technology and corporations are pioneers of advanced research and development around the world. Although Israel is located in semi-arid land that has little potential for agriculture, it has reached 90% of food security.

Somalia, which is largely non-recognized and has limited foreign direct investment, has a prosperous private sector economy in Africa, a highly developed telecommunications system, a digital economy, peace and stability, and rare democratic processes in Africa. It is the only Muslim democracy in the Horn of Africa and maintains cordial diplomatic relations with Western powers and African nations.

Somaliland needs investment, technology and know-how. It has a wealth of resources, such as oil and gas, and strategic locations that contribute to its geopolitical abilities. As Israel warms up its relations with the Arab world and Africa, Somaliland may be a potential ally and friend who can meet Israel's strategic goal – a faithful Muslim ally in the Red Sea region.

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Somaliland needs a strong partner who has little to maintain strong support with the capital of Hargeis. The alleged Russian interest in establishing a military base in Somalia, although potentially positive, threatens Somaliland's close ties with Washington and the EU, making Israel a key missing piece in the Somalilan puzzle.

The Israeli Government has expressed an interest in renewing the de jure recognition it offered to Somalia in 1960, given its role in the Red Sea and Horn's geopolitics. According to a local source, Golisnews, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said his government is ready to recognize Somaliland again. Similar sentiments also manifest in Somalia, where influential people, academics, entrepreneurs, civil society organizations and government officials are welcomed to support a close relationship with Tel Aviv.

A warmer attitude towards Israel is not new. M. Haji Ibrahim Egal, the first Prime Minister of Somalilan, has tirelessly asked for support from Israel, addressing this issue in a letter to former Israeli Prime Minister Jicchak Rabin in 1995.

Given the status of both states and their struggle for statehood and recognition, it is high time that Israel and Somalia renew their diplomatic relations and mutual co-operation.

The writer is a liberal student and a businessman based in Somalia.

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