African Union suspends Israel’s observer status until next year’s summit

At the African Union (AU) Summit held in Addis Ababa, the final decision on Israel's observer status was decided to be discussed at the summit next year, thus suspending Israel's status until then.

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At the 35th African Union (AU) Summit held on February 5-6, Israel’s AU observer status was suspended. The AU will make its final decision on Israel’s observer membership at the summit to be held next year.

A committee of representatives from Algeria, South Africa, Senegal, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, and Nigeria has reportedly been set up to advise on the matter at next year’s summit.

The African Union Commission had accepted Israel’s observer membership on July 22, 2021.

Countries such as South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Egypt, Algeria, Comoros Island, Tunisia, Djibouti, Mauritania, and Libya announced that they objected to the decision.

Israel had lost its observer membership after the Organization of African Unity (OAU) was restructured into the African Union in 2002.

The African Union, which supports a two-state solution to the Palestine-Israel issue, had previously rejected Israel’s efforts to become an observer member, despite all attempts.

As a result of the objections of the states that opposed the commission’s decision, the African Union backed down from the decision.

South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor said that granting Israel observer status in the African Union, which has committed human rights violations against the Palestinian people, is against the Union’s statutes.

Minister Pandor pointed out that the decision to accept Israel as an observer member of the African Union was taken without consultation with the member states, and said, “This is a very important issue for the African continent because, as Africa, we have always stood by the freedom struggles since the Organization of African Unity. ”

Speaking to  French state radio about the 35th AU Summit, Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra said that a double mistake was made by granting Israel observer status in the African Union.

Lamamra stated that the first mistake was to take such a decision without consulting the African Union member states, including Algeria, and emphasized that this decision would certainly not have been taken had there been consultation on this issue.

According to the Algerian Foreign Minister, the second mistake is that there are differences of opinion among the member states on this issue, and this situation is not corrected. He pointed out that this was a bad situation for the union.

It is observed that South Africa and Algeria, among the African countries that objected to Israel’s membership, came to the fore with their reactive statements on  July 22.

However, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a written statement regarding the decision to suspend Israel’s observer status as a result of the African Union Summit.

“At today’s meeting, the Union rejected the attempts by Algeria and South Africa to cancel Israel’s admission to the organization as an observer and decided to set up a committee to continue consultations on the issue,” the statement said.

Reminding that the committee will present its results at the African Union Summit in 2023, it was noted in the statement that Israel’s admission to the Union would “facilitate the increasing cooperation between Israel and African countries”.

On the other hand, the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that it welcomed the decision to suspend Israel’s observer status at the African Union Summit.

The statement evaluated the decision as “a victory for the Palestinian cause, the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, and the free will of the African peoples.”

The Arab League also announced that it welcomed the decision to suspend Israel’s observer status.

In a written statement from the League, it was stated that the suspension of Israel’s observer membership status in the League is a constructive step and reflects the historical anti-colonial position of the League that supports the Palestinian cause.

In summary, the reaction of a significant number of the AU members, especially Algeria and South Africa, against Israel’s status led to the suspension of membership and the postponement of the decision.

A committee has been established to continue consultations on the subject, and it is stated that the committee will present its results at the African Union Summit in 2023. It can be said that the diplomatic activities of the African countries opposing the decision and the diplomatic initiatives of Israel next year will determine the final result.

Musab Yilmaz

Musab Yılmaz is a Researcher in North African Studies. He graduated from Galatasaray University, with a degree in Political Science. He is currently an MA student at Ibn Haldun University, in the Department of Political Science and International Relations. He conducts research on Northern and Sub-Saharan African countries, especially in Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco.

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