Somalia Could be Cozying Up to Israel – with Iran to Blame (with AUDIO)
Mogadishu abstains in vote on UNHRC draft resolution condemning Israeli occupation of Golan Heights
Somalia abstained on a recent draft resolution condemning Israel in the United Nations Human Rights Council, marking the first time the Arab League member state had passed up an opportunity to denounce the Jewish state in an important international forum.
The abstention by the Muslim-majority country came on March 22, as members of the Geneva-based HRC voted on a resolution titled “Human Rights in the Occupied Syrian Golan.” The vote took place a day after US President Donald Trump announced he would recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. He later signed a resolution to that effect in the presence of Israel Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Somalia has traditionally voted against Israel, regardless of the issue at hand. It voted in favor of other draft resolutions against Israel on the same day, and later reiterated its rejection of Israeli claims to the strategic plateau.
When reached by The Media Line, a spokesperson for the Israeli Foreign Ministry refused to comment on the abstention. But Ahmed al-Baz, a Moroccan political analyst, said he saw nothing sudden in the move, adding that it came as the result of “breakthroughs” Israel had made in terms of convincing Arab nations to reconsider their stance on the Jewish state.
“There is a campaign in the Middle East saying that the danger lies with Iran, not Israel,” Baz told The Media Line. “The Gulf states have a special position on Israel. Also, they are influencing other states to fellow in their steps.”
Recent media reports have indicated what could be warming ties between Israel and Somalia, including a possible secret 2016 meeting between Netanyahu and Somalia’s then-president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.
Another Middle Eastern political analyst, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Media Line that the shift in relations between Arab states and Israel was part of a Saudi-led campaign to gain support from Sunni Arab leaders amid an ongoing feud with Shi’ite Iran and its Lebanese proxy, Hizbullah.
“It’s a new alignment of the Arab forces in the region,” the analyst said.
The analyst told The Media Line that the Saudi government was working to ensure that a majority of Arab states would side with Riyadh against Tehran, adding that the Sunni-Shi’ite conflict was playing out in Israel’s favor.
Somalia has yet to state a reason for the vote by its envoy to Geneva. Nevertheless, on March 26, the government in Mogadishu issued a statement reiterating its “firm position that the Golan Heights are Syrian territory that is illegally occupied by Israel.” At the same time, an unnamed senior government official reportedly informed the press that he had been “surprised” by the decision to abstain, calling it “contrary to the official position of the Somali government.”
While many African nations have historically supported the Palestinians in the international arena, Israel has made it a foreign policy imperative to make diplomatic inroads throughout Africa and obtain the backing of countries there. To that end, Netanyahu has made three trips to visit African leaders over the past two years.
The Media Line discusses the Middle East’s changing geopolitical realities with Prof. Uzi Rabi, director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University.