Israel delegation ejected from AU meeting over accreditation
Israel’s bid to join the African Union as an Observer State on Saturday began on a wrong footing after security agents ejected members of its delegation for entering a closed-door meeting without proper accreditation.
The African Union later indicated the delegation hadn’t been accredited to the meeting and were asked to leave “on protocol reasons,” according to an official familiar with the incident.
Diplomatic sources said two representatives from Israel were removed from a meeting after it was found their badges were invalid.
Israeli media reporting on the incident named the head of the delegation as Ms Sharon Barley, the Deputy Director for Africa at the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
“They were expelled from the African Union conference hall in Addis Ababa, where Israel participated as an observer, on Saturday morning,” reported the Jerusalem Post.
A diplomatic source told The EastAfrican the delegation had “”sneaked in with fake badges.”
Israel, once a valid Observer State, left the AU back in 2002 but has been seeking to return especially since Palestine has been Observer state at AU since 2013.
The African Union Summit was to decide whether Israel was to be confirmed as an Observer, so it is possible that the delegation was attending before actual confirmation. The AU Summit is expected to make an announcement on the matter in a communique expected on Sunday.
Last year, Moussa Faki Mahamat, the AU Commission Chairperson, tabled the proposal to admit Israel as an Observer. However, South Africa and Algeria opposed the move, accusing Israel of discriminating against Palestinians.
“The issue was given to a committee of Heads of State to deliberate,” Ebba Kalondo, Mr Faki’s Spokesperson, told The EastAfrican earlier this week.
“The decision is now up to the Heads of State to pronounce itself on the issue.”
Being an Observer state means the country can’t have a vote at the AU, but grants its diplomats a chance to join in high-level events and lobby for a positive policy.
Meanwhile, Palestinian Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh spoke at the Opening session of the 36th ordinary Summit of the AU, thanking the continental body for giving his territory a voice.
But he blamed Israel for damaging the existence of Palestine, including what he called a demographic disadvantage.
He, however, said they are ready to negotiate for a two-state solution.
Palestine’s case is likely to be interesting at the AU which will now be chaired by the Comorian President Azali Assoumani, a known supporter of the Palestinian cause.