Gabon and Israel: Ties of Friendship and Commerce

Jerusalem, Oct. 5 - Gabon, one of the more prosperous and stable African countries, has about 2 billion barrels of oil reserves. With a small population and abundance in natural resources, Gabon enjoys a per-capita income four times larger than that of most sub-Saharan African countries. In January 2010, Gabon became a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

Gabon is set to play a critical role in the Palestinian drive for state recognition this fall by voting on the issue by virtue of its UNSC membership status. Although the Palestinian leadership continues to drive its U.N. bid forward, Israel and Gabon have a lot to offer each other.

Israel established relations with Gabon soon after Gabonese independence in 1960. The two countries also signed several treaties and agreements. They signed the Agreement for Technical Cooperation and a Treaty of Friendship in 1962 and a commercial agreement the following year.

Israel has sent hundreds of agricultural experts and technicians to aid in developing newly independent sub-Saharan African states. Israeli military expertise and technical skills in water-resource management, particularly in desert reclamation, have often facilitated ties with the sub-Saharan nations.

In Cameroon, Gabon’s neighbor, Israel built a training center to assist in halting the advance of the Sahara Desert, and in Côte d'Ivoire Israeli contractors undertook several major building projects. Israel also trained the elite armed units protecting the presidents of Cameroon, Liberia and Togo.

Yet Gabon and other sub-Saharan African countries cut ties with Israel due to pressure from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in the aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Gabon has since withdrawn from OPEC.

In 1993, diplomatic and consular relations between Gabon and Israel picked up again – and they are now managed via Israel’s embassy in Cameroon.

Transactions between the countries include friendship treaties, commerce agreements and abolishment of visas for visiting diplomats.

Gabon’s leader, President Ali Bongo Ondimba has recently sought to build up its oil-wealth by investing in infrastructure and resource development, something Israeli experts are familiar with. Gabon’s dwindling oil reserves poises it to be keenly interested in Israeli hi-tech innovations in water-management and infrastructure development.

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