Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked Zambia to host an Africa-Israel summit that was originally scheduled for Togo in September, Zambian President Edgar Chagwa Lungu said Friday night.
Zambia’s Lusakatimes website reported that Lungu, who met Netanyahu last week at the re-inauguration ceremonies for Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta in Nairobi, told the Zambian state-owned television station, “For whatever reason we have been given the mandate to host this summit which will bring its own benefits to Zambia.”
He said that one of the reasons he went to Kenyatta’s swearing-in ceremony was because Netanyahu wanted to meet him, and – according to the Lusakatimes – “it was during his bilateral engagement with PM Netanyahu that the Israeli PM revealed his desire to see Zambia host the summit instead of Togo as it was earlier planned.” PM Netanyahu Meets President of Zambia Edgar Chagwa Lungu, February 28, 2017. (YouTube/IsraeliPM)
A long-planned summit in Togo last September that was expected to draw the leaders of between 20 to 25 African states to meet with Netanyahu was scuttled at the last minute because of domestic problems in that west African state.
In the meantime there were discussions in Jerusalem about holding a similar summit here instead.
The Foreign Ministry did not confirm on Sunday that a summit would be held in Zambia, with a spokesman saying only that the ministry was “looking into” Lungu’s comments.
Lungu visited Israel in February, along with a large delegation of government ministers. After that visit he said to the Zambian media that Zambia stands to reap substantial benefits from the visit.
“Israel is a pacesetter in survival instinct, because it has a desert; but they have a thriving education, agriculture and information and communication technology sectors and we can explore and learn from them. A lot of benefits are expected out of this trip,” he said.
Zambia is one of the few African countries with a military attache in Israel. It opened an embassy here in 2015. Israel does not have an embassy in Zambia.
Netanyahu said after meeting Lungu that Israel hopes to “deepen its cooperation with the country, which I think is important for both our countries and both our peoples. I know that you’re opening a Jewish history museum in Zambia and soon a synagogue in the capital city. I hope one day I have the opportunity to visit those institutions and to visit Zambia.”
At its peak, some 1,000 Jews lived in Zambia, though that number has dwindled to only about 30 today. There are three Jewish cemeteries in the country.