JERUSALEM, Israel – A developing U.S.-Israeli partnership is lending new meaning to Isaiah 49:6, the Bible verse that says Israel will be a "light to the nations." Israel and the United States signed an agreement in Jerusalem on Monday to work together to provide for the energy needs of sub-Saharan Africa.
"This is bringing light," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. "Every time an African mother will turn on the light or turn on a heater for some water for her children part of Israel will be there."
Netanyahu was speaking at the signing ceremony between the Prime Minister's Office and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). It was attended by American, African and Israeli diplomats and officials.
"Recognizing that two-thirds of those living in sub-Saharan Africa lacked access to electricity 'Power Africa' was launched in 2013 to create 60 million new electricity connections and 30,000 megawatts of new power generation," said President Trump's hand-picked Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.
Both Israel and the U.S. have been working separately in Africa for years. But the new partnership is expected to enable Israeli companies to access American government agencies providing grants, ties with financing entities and professional and legal counsel and have benefits for the U.S., too.
"Today 'Power Africa' welcomes Israel as its developing partner. Together our governments will work together to identify opportunities to leverage the Israeli private sector's engineering and technological expertise to achieve the goals of 'Power Africa' to deliver energy efficiently and cost effectively," Friedman said.
Netanyahu said the partnership was part of his vision to restore Israeli ties to African nations, which had been derailed over the past decades.
The prime minister has visited Africa three times over the past year and a half, including a trip last week in which he met with more than 10 African leaders. He said then that Israel's intention was "to deepen ties with Africa" by forging ties with countries with which Israel has no diplomatic relations.
Netanyahu said in online surveys of 54 nations, Israel has discovered that it's not only the governments of Africa that value Israel, it's the people, too.
"They recognize the benefit of partnering with Israel. And that's a tremendous development," he said.
"What people understand is that cooperation with Israel – just as it helped agriculture in Africa in the 60s – can now help every realm of life in the beginning of the 21st century," he added.
Although Netanyahu and Friedman sat next to each other on the stage, neither mentioned the most engaging issue that is captivating both countries this week: whether or not President Trump will announce that the U.S. is ready to move its embassy to Jerusalem or recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Nevertheless, Friedman concluded, "As the prophet Isaiah says, Israel is a light unto the nations."