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Cameroon Is Israel’s Best Friend In Africa – Israeli Ambassador 

After two years of service as Ambassador to Cameroon, what memories are you taking with you?

Cameroon is my first African posting and I am taking wonderful memories from Cameroon. I have spent my entire career in Asia and I am still going back there. It was an eye opener for me to see different cultures, scenery and people. It is true that we are diplomats and here to serve our countries, but part of the joy of being a diplomat is really to get to know the different cultures. My reason for coming to Cameroon was because this country is definitely the best friend of Israel in Africa. It is a wonderful place to be, where we feel we are welcome, with a wonderful cooperation with the government and the warm feeling of the people.

This really encouraged me to try to do as much as possible to prove the appreciation not only in words. It is a diverse and beautiful country and I hope to come back here in future. What I enjoyed most coming from a dry country was to see the huge amount of water, the rivers, the forest; it is something we don’t have. Going into the forest seeing animals, the different reservoirs, monkeys and gorilla, is something you dream of as a kid and here it is part of our daily lives.

What was the rationale behind the diversion of funds for the celebration of the Israeli national day to humanitarian acts, which you initiated?

Our resources are limited and I discovered that it was only but right to invest in humanitarian activities. This is not to say having an official ceremony to mark the day is not important. If I have to calculate from the available budget what is valuable to the kinds of activity with the people. The Israeli government was happy with the idea, but I also felt people of Mengong and the government appreciated the initiative. This year, in spite of the fact that I am not going to be here, the Embassy will still do same; have a humanitarian activity in place of an official function.
The main focus of the Israeli Embassy is agricultural development; what is the impact on the ground?

Because of the limited nature of our resources, we have to invest where we have an advantage, though we are advanced in education and medical fields. I thought it would be much important to minimise the fields of activities and use resources for specific activities because, it is only then we can make real change. We tried to invest in regions where Israeli advantage is unique, with experience in working in a dry area, as there are many developed countries that invest in other domains.

This is why we chose the extreme north region and we couldn’t have succeeded without the cooperation of the local partners and about 100 volunteers. It was the partnership that made it a beautiful project. It was a simple project with tremendous impact in changing the lives of the people. It would provide the local population to have instead of one crop a year, three crops, triple production, and they would produce at certain times of the year they have not been able to do so before.

What is the impact in the area of dairy production?

For dairy production, a report would be ready early next month and then we would proceed from the theoretical aspect to establishing small pilot projects in the Northwest in better and different management of health and milking of the cows that would triple yield. This does not involve too much investment.

And, in the area of poultry production?

A group of 18 people went to Israel last year and a breed of 2m chicks expected in Cameroon in two weeks. What is left is just coordination in Cameron to give the go ahead for them to be brought in. During my tenure, 28 people for milk production, 28 for poultry, 6 for HIV/AIDS educational training and five for agricultural initiatives received training in Israel.  

Though your focus is agriculture, you have not been blind to the political development in the country. What is your on the appointment of ELECAM members?

Our aim is to work with the people. Israel is a country that finds it hard to handle its own issues and it would not advise another government on what to do. What we want to do is to work with the people for the development of the nation.

Could you compare the level of democracy in Israel with that of Cameroon?

We don’t give grades to any nation; we are in a position where Israel is under heavy criticism from the international community. We, definitely, don’t like what is done to us so we cannot do it to others. Our goal is to contribute the most for the benefit of the population, governance is not our area.

What is your take on the recent hostilities in the Gaza Strip?

What Israel did was what any government would do to protect the rights of its people. Dozens of rockets were fired into Israel and Israel was trying to restrain itself and to find a solution. But when Israel retaliated after 18 hours following the attack by Hamas, we were criticised.

We can only be sorry that the international observers are trying to deprive Israel of its basic rights of security and encouraging Hamas to continue its activities. It proves to us that we can only trust ourselves and do what we must as a responsible government to protect citizens. Definitely, we are seeking peace, which is the ultimate goal, and ready to pay the prize to achieve peace. But, if the other side is trying to engage war against us, we are ready to protect our citizens.

What has been the most challenging moment for you working in Cameroon?

I would not call it challenging, but what I had to do was transfer the cooperation from words to actions. I tried to form the idea that much more can be done in Cameroon. More than 70 people have been to Israel and the year is just starting and it is rewarding. The most rewarding moment for me was the health camp at Mengong where most villagers were treated with money that would have been used in celebrating Israel’s national day.