November 22, 2013
THE Israel government has asked Kenya for a clarification on what President Uhuru Kenyatta agreed with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas at the sidelines of the Africa Arab Summit in Kuwait this week.Uhuru indicated that the Palestinian request to re-open its Nairobi embassy would be favourably considered.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had already invited Uhuru to Israel for bilateral talks in January. It is not clear how the Palestinian embassy issue will affect the proposed visit to Tel Aviv.
Israeli officials were privately angry but said they would not rush to any decision as Kenya is one of their strongest allies in the region. .
"As of this moment the Embassy of Israel has not received any official communication from the Kenyan government regarding this matter. We shall address the issue once such communication is received," said Deputy ambassador Yaki Lopez yesterday.
On Wednesday President Uhuru met Palestine leader Mahmoud Abbas in Kuwait where he reportedly welcomed a proposal by to open an embassy and a request for land for a chancery.
A statement from the Presidential Strategic Press Service quoted Uhuru as saying, “Kenya acknowledges the interest of Palestine to re-open its Embassy in Nairobi and what has been requested will be considered.”
”Kenya, alongside other like-minded countries, voted in favour of a resolution of the UN General Assembly to grant Palestine the status of a non-member State of the UN,” Uhuru added.
Yesterday opposition Cord supporters accused the Jubilee government of kneejerk reactions after the UN Security Council last week failed to defer the trials of Uhuru and Deputy President William Ruto at the ICC.
"It does appear now that Jubilee is making decisions on behalf of the country on the basis of the support they get or do not get regarding ICC cases. In this case the decision to allow Palestine to open an embassy in Nairobi could be motivated by the decision by the US to abstain from voting on the deferral request by Kenya. US is a close ally of Israel," said Richard Onyonka, assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs in the last coalition government, on behalf of Cord.
Kenyans who studied in Israel also said the government should be careful over reopening the Palestinian embassy.“It should be approached with caution because it has political implications," said Francis Ndegwa, head of the Shalom Club, an association of 3,000 Kenyans who studied in Israel.
Israel and Kenya established diplomatic relations in 1963 but severed them in the wake of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. Prior to the diplomatic fallout, Israel also trained Kenya's pilots and sold arms to Kenya.Diplomatic relations were re-established in 1987.
Israel assumed a lead role among foreign countries in advising Kenyan forces during and after the Westgate terrorist attack in September.
In 2011 Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka and the late Security Minister George Saitoti separately visited Israel where they expressed interest in purchasing advanced weapons systems.
In 2010, personnel from Israeli defense firms such as Israel Aerospace Industries, Israel Military Industries, SIBAT (the aid branch of Israel's Ministry of Defense), and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman toured Kenya.
This year, Kenyan armed forces visited Israel with an aim to enhance military cooperation between the two countries and to investigate possible cooperation with Israeli defense industries. Kenyan anti-terror police also visited an Israeli company specialising in surveillance systems. In Kenya today, there is a Jewish community with about 600 members.