The Untold Story of Somali-Israeli Relations

The Times of Israel reports that the Somali President plans talks with parliament on possible ties with Israel.

A spokesperson for Somalia’s president said on Saturday that the government is set to consult parliament on the possibility of establishing diplomatic relations with Israel, Hebrew media reported.

Reports by Channel 12 news and Kan news could not be immediately verified.

Somalia media reports last month claimed President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud recently held contacts with Israeli officials while on a trip to the United Arab Emirates, even flying to Israel, according to one report. These reports were denied.

Mohamud secretly met with former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel in 2016 while serving his first stint in office, which ended in 2017.

Upon his reelection to the job in May, a Somali diplomat close to Mohamud told The Times of Israel that his return to power was a positive development for a potential normalization process between Mogadishu and Jerusalem.

Israel does not have diplomatic relations with the East African nation, which has a population of some 11 million. Somalia, a mostly Sunni Muslim country and a member of the Arab League, has never recognized the State of Israel.

There have been sporadic reports in recent years of growing ties between Israel and Somalia.

In an Israellycool exclusive, a former Somali diplomat has revealed to me that this report is not true. The last time a Somali official met with an Israeli official was in 2020. Before then, former Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (Farmaajo) met former Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in November 2017. Relations came close to being normalized then; in fact, the plan was that Somalia would normalize relations with Israel around the same time as the Abraham Accords. My source tells me that rumor had it that former US President Donald Trump didn’t consider it to be a good idea, thinking Somalia was against him thanks to Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, as well as the close relations between Somalia and Qatar.

This was all the culmination of secret Somali-Israeli relations dating back to the early 1950s.

The Somali Youth League (SYL), founded in 1943, was established to achieve independence for Somalia. They established relations with Israel in 1950, with Israel supporting their push for independence. Israel voted in support of an independent Somalia in 1952, but the vote did not pass due to Arab countries voting against it.

In 1960, Israel again voted in support of Somalia becoming an independent country. Golda Meir, the Israeli Foreign Minister at the time, met Abdullahi Issa, the Somalia Minister of Foreign Affairs in New York, and was invited to attend the celebration of Somalia’s independence in Mogadishu on 1 July 1960.

In 1976, Somali President Mohamed Siad Barre contacted Israeli Foreign Minister Yigal Allon, asking for support for French Somaliland independence. Israel supported the idea, and Djibouti gained independence from France in 1977.

My source tells me that relations between the two countries have been “good and secret,” with Israel “always being at the forefront” in supporting Somalia. He laments the fact that Somalia listened to the Arab league, and held itself back when it came to full-blown relations with Israel, relations which would have resulted in a much more prosperous Somalia.

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David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media