Nairobi: Kenya and Israel say they are keen to enhance their “special” relations including that on economy, security and projects linked to the Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs]. Delegations from both sides met virtually after which they agreed to expand cooperation in development, security and health.
“Kenya and Israel agreed to invest in joint efforts on security issues, innovation, and cyber security, as well as continued cooperation in coping with Covid-19 and providing health training in general,” a dispatch from the Foreign Ministry in Kenya said.
“The two sides agreed to progress and widen development support, including holding a dedicated Development Dialogue, to advance the Sustainable Development Goals and to progress President Kenyatta's Big 4 Agenda,” the statement added, referring to President Uhuru Kenyatta’s ambitious projects to improve food security, manufacturing, healthcare and housing.
The two delegations led by Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Macharia Kamau and Israeli Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz met during the 4th Political Dialogue between the two countries. This was also a preparatory meeting for the upcoming Joint Commission on Cooperation due in November.
Israel, seen as one of the best in security management, has also managed to reduce Covid-19 fatalities through a wider vaccination programme. It had earlier helped train Kenya’s nurses after independence through the Mashav programme. However, critics have accused some Israeli firms, such as tech firm NSO Group, the developer of Pegasus, of aiding intelligence agencies across the world to mine private information on targets.
There were no details on the nature of cyberspace cooperation in the dispatch, however, and Israel itself has indicated it doesn’t control what clients of the spying apps can do, meaning the blame on abuse rests with end users. The Joint Commission on Cooperation usually discusses vital areas of cooperation between the two countries.
Israel has been involved in various Kenyan projects in the past, with mixed success. It has traditionally cooperated with Kenya in training of security forces. A trial programme for irrigation in Galana-Kulalu, Tana River County, run by an Israeli firm failed to pick up with the firm withdrawing from the project and citing frustrations. However, more Israeli firms are involved in Kenya’s agribusiness.
The meeting also discussed “development, economic, and legal cooperation, implementation of pending agreements, and collaboration in international organisations.” Israel joined the African Union recently as an observer state, returning to the body it left acrimoniously 19 years ago. As an Observer, Israel will not have a vote but can send delegations to crucial meetings and be able to lobby for favourable support. It is widely seen as a check on Palestine, which had been an Observer state at the African Union since 2013. The African Union has always supported a two-state solution, and opposes Israeli’s alleged forced eviction of Palestinians.
“The Political Dialogue is an important opportunity for both Kenya and Israel to discuss bilateral issues at a senior level, and promote the special relations between the countries,” Kenya’s Foreign Ministry said. “The dialogue underscores the strength of the special partnership between Kenya and Israel, which is based on shared goals and common interests, as well as a long history of friendship and admiration.”