The relocation of its Israeli embassy by the United States from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has done irrevocable damage to what has been a long-standing Israeli-Palestine deadlock. So far the relocation has sparked chaos in the Gaza strip and reports indicate that Israeli forces killed at least 58 Palestinians as they moved to quell the protests.

The US, however, pressed on and had an event to commemorate the embassy’s opening. The Israeli Foreign Affairs ministry told Al Jazeera that his nation invited all 86 countries that have diplomatic missions within its borders to the opening. However, only 33 sent their representatives. These included 12 African envoys, from Rwanda, Angola, South Sudan, Kenya, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo, among others.

The presence of such a large contingent of African representatives stems from Israel’s latest campaign to strengthen ties with African nations and garner support outside of its traditional Western allies and trade partners. During his 2017 tour of Africa, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that Israel was pursuing membership of the African Union and would use support from the continent to debunk the traditional anti-Israel sentiment in international organisations such as the UN and weaken the instinctive sympathy for Palestine in Africa.

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Relocation of US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem photo credit ikimedia Commons

Backlash

States whose delegations attended the opening have faced criticism from activists for betraying Africa’s long-standing support of the Palestinian people.

“We are very disappointed at African countries that celebrated the declaration of Jerusalem as the official capital city of Israel by the USA. That is the highest form of betrayal because, as Africans, we should know that colonialism and imperialism have no place in humanity,” Julius Malema, South African MP and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader, told reporters.

In the case of countries like Kenya, which has an established relationship with Israel, its attendance was not shocking but still troubling, given the country’s current security concerns. Observers argue that Kenya’s move to send representatives could have heightened its terror attack risk, given the religious fervor associated with the Israel-Palestine conflict.

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Angola, on the other hand, is in the media for a foreign policy misstep regarding the opening. Angolan media reported that the senior adviser in the Angolan Embassy, Manuel Augusto Jao Diogo Fortunato, who attended the event with the approval of Angola’s Director for African, Middle East and Regional Organisations, Joaquim do Espirito Santo, have both been fired by Angola’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Manuel Augusto, for “failing to comply with procedure and harming Angola’s good reputation”.

Angola has taken a very clear stance against Israeli occupying policies and has acted accordingly in the past. In 2016 the country voted in favour of the UN Security Council resolution condemning the building of Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories, which resulted in Israel discontinuing foreign assistance and breaking all beneficial ties.