Israel’s observer delegation to the African Union summit in Addis Ababa was kicked out of the opening ceremony on Saturday, the foreign ministry said, accusing South Africa and Algeria of a serious diplomatic breach.
According to the Walla news website, which first reported the incident, a security guard approached the Israeli delegation during the opening ceremony and demanded they leave.
The video showed the Israelis, led by the State Department’s deputy director-general for Africa, Sharon Bar-Li, leaving after a few minutes of discussion.
“Israel takes seriously the incident in which the representative for Africa, Ambassador Sharon Bar-Li, was removed from the African Union hall despite her status as an accredited observer with access badges,” ministry spokesman Lior Hayat said.
“It is sad to see that the African Union has been captured by a small number of extremist countries like Algeria and South Africa, led by hatred and controlled by Iran,” Hayat said.
“We call on African countries to oppose these actions which are damaging the organization of the African Union itself and the entire continent,” he said.
The issue of Israel’s observer status has caused deep divisions within the 55-member bloc.
At last year’s summit, discussion on the issue was suspended in an attempt to avoid a vote that would create an unprecedented rift in the Union.
Instead, a committee was set up to make recommendations at this year’s summit.
The relationship with Israel is a rare point of contention for the body, which values consensus, with powerful member states, particularly South Africa, vocally protesting a decision in 2021 by Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairman of the African Union Commission, to accept Israel’s accreditation to the bloc.
The six-member committee was to include South Africa and Algeria, which opposed Faki’s move to accredit Israel, as well as Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which supported it.
Cameroon also applied to join the committee, while South Africa also asked for Nigeria to be included, diplomats said at the time.
The Palestinian Authority has repeatedly urged African leaders to withdraw Israel’s AU accreditation, condemning its “apartheid regime”.
The 2021 accreditation gave Israeli diplomats a victory they had sought for nearly two decades.
Israel was previously accredited to the Organization of African Unity (OAU), but lost that status when the body was dissolved in 2002 and replaced by the AU.
According to the AU website, 72 countries, regional blocs and organizations are already accredited, including North Korea, the European Union and UNAIDS.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made strengthening Israel’s relations with Africa one of his main foreign policy goals.
Earlier this month, he joined Chadian President Mahamat Idriss Deba Itna’s visit to Tel Aviv to officially open the African embassy in Israel, a move both leaders hailed as “historic”.
Reported by Times of Israel