President Edgar Lungu has told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that his entire cabinet wanted to come with him to Israel.
President Lungu who is visiting Israel on a five-day state visit said his entire cabinet was excited about the trip and all his Ministers wanted to follow.
He said his entire cabinet wanted to come along for good reasons but that he could only carry eight Ministers.
President Lungu has travelled with Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Agriculture, Commerce, Trade and Industry, Energy, Tourism, Water Development and Environment, Transportation and Health.
He was speaking to the media on Tuesday afternoon after meeting Prime Minister Netanyahu at his office.
“Zambia have been friends with Israel on and off and this time around we will be friends forever. My Ministers are happy to be here and the entire cabinet wanted to be here for good reasons. The relationship has been enhanced by the establishment of an Embassy here from 2015 to now we have escalated our friendship much more,” President Lungu said.
“My visit is an opportunity to explore further areas of corporation especially in Water and energy, it’s a shame that we have a lot of water and we are coming here to learn. It’s not a coincidence because you have learnt how to find water from the sea,” he said.
President Lungu also stated that Zambia went through a lot of anguish when it broke off ties with Israel between 1973 to 1993 saying it is now time we strengthen the friendship.
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.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Netanyahu has asked President Lungu to help Israel regain its observer status at the African Union, a position it lost in 2002 and has had trouble regaining, primarily because of the objection of South Africa and the North African Muslim states.
The Palestinian Authority enjoys this status in the AU and as a result Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is able each year to address the AU annual summit, something denied to Israel.
Zambia is one of the few African countries with a military attaché in Israel at its embassy which it opened in 2015.
Israel does not have an embassy in Zambia.
Prime Minister Netanyahu said after meeting President Lungu that his country “has undergone an amazing and admirable change in a transition to democracy since the ‘90s.”
He said 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.”
“I want to thank you for your friendship. It was well demonstrated in our meeting in Entebbe (Uganda) and we’ve been working together to strengthen and deepen the relations between Zambia and Israel. A year –and-a-half ago you opened an embassy in Israel and many, many of your Ministers have visited Israel recently and are visiting again today in fields of water, agriculture, education and also security, defence, anti-terrorism and many, many other areas,” Prime Minister Netanyahu said.
“We hope to send our experts to help with alternative energy, with water and other areas that we’ll discuss today. I look forward to deepening this cooperation, 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.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu said however stated that the future of Zambia and the future of so many African countries is being challenged by the rise of radical Islam and the terrorism that is espouses.
He said radical Islam and the fanaticism that it instils in young people is a challenge to countries like Zambia.
“I think that it’s a battle between the past and the future. We firmly stand on the side of the future, of modernity,” he said.
“I just showed you, Mr. President, a relic from our past. We’re very proud of our past, our Biblical past and our modern effort to come back to our ancient land but we seek to develop a hopeful and bright future for our people and we are as equally committed to do that for the people of Africa. So, I think we have to seize the future together but also work together to defeat the forces that want to take us to a dark past.”
He added, “In seizing the future, Israel is coming back to Africa in more than a verbal way. After this visit to East Africa, I’ll be going to Togo in West Africa in a few months. There will be a summit there to discuss Israeli technology in so many areas, in agriculture, in water, in cyber security, in every field of technology. I hope that we’ll be able to meet once more within a few months. But in any case, I want to assure you of our friendship and our commitment to our relationship and that is why I welcome you on a red carpet.”