THE Israeli Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hon Avigdor Lieberman, is currently on a state visit to Uganda. Joe Nam spoke to the Deputy Ambassador of Israel in Nairobi, Maor Elbaz Starinsky, about the visit and below are excerpts.
Question: Why is your Deputy Prime Minister visiting?
Answer: We are here on a tour of duty. As you are aware, the Israeli embassy in Nairobi is accredited to Uganda as well as to five other African countries.
Also, Israel considers Uganda to be an important player in the multi-lateral arena. Since Uganda is the current chair of the UN Security Council, we hope she will help us condemn Iranâ€™s ambition to develop nuclear weapons. As a friend, we expect Uganda to denounce Iran.
Why is Israel concerned about Iranâ€™s nuclear programme?
Iranâ€™s ambition to become a nuclear power goes beyond the peaceful use of nuclear technology to make energy for domestic and industrial use.
They plan to build a weapon that can be carried on a nuclear war head to over 10,000kms. Should a radical regime like that acquire such capability, then the world will become a more dangerous place in live in. Such weapons could easily find their way to other radical groups in the middle east and Africa.
What will Israel do in the face of a possible attack by Iran?
Iran has publicly called for the destruction of the State of Israel. Beyond this, Iran is a threat to world peace, not only to Israel. They could easily link up with radical groups in Africa such as the Lordâ€™s Resistance Army and the Al Shabaab in Somalia and arm them to destabilise the region.
That is why African governments must not think that this threat is remote and restricted to the middle east. Israel is, however, able to defend it self from Iranian attack.
Will Israel make peace with her Palestinian neighbours?
To begin with, the Palestinians must be willing to talk. They must take bold steps to make concessions, a peace process is a negotiation and one has to make concessions. But we have another problem as to who the legitimate Palestinian leader is. Is it the Hamas in Gaza or the Fatah in the West Bank?
We should have a credible partner with whom to negotiate with. That is the starting point. I can tell you that Israel wants peace with all her neigbours.
What should Uganda expect from cooperating with Israel?
I do not want to preempt what is ahead, but we have many things in common. I also want to say that Israel is happy to share her expertise with Uganda, upon request. We will be glad to share our expertise in agriculture, aquaculture, water and irrigation and HIV/AIDS prevention, through the Israeli International Development Cooperation (MASHAV). We encourage the Israeli private sector to increase their presence in Uganda.
What gives Israeli businessmen the confidence to invest in Uganda?
Even though there are already Israeli businesses in Uganda, we still encourage more Israeli investors to come.
However, they will make their own assessment as to whether it makes economic sense to invest in Uganda.
They will also want to know if the Government is transparent, whether the banking system works, if the infrastructure is reliable and if corruption will be a hindrance.
Do you have a word to Ugandans?
I want to say that we are friends, oil or no oil, Israel and Uganda are friends. There is so much we have in common.
We count on Uganda for help, says ambassador Maor