The Israeli relationship with the new country began long before official relations were established, in the late 1960s, when leaders of the insurrection against the northern government reached out to Israel.
The Republic of South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, is a small, beleaguered nation embedded in a sea of hostile Islamic radicalism. The new state was formed on 9 July 2011, following a referendum on independence in southern Sudan, and in 2011 a vast majority of the population (99%) voted to split from Sudan to form the Republic of South Sudan. The following day, it was recognized by the State of Israel.
After five decades of conflict, the country is in ruins. Illiteracy is at the 90 percent level, there is little or no infrastructure, and many South Sudanese have little or no access to clean water, basic nutrition or security. Most of its people follow traditional tribal religions, with a minority favoring Christianity. It is surrounded by hostile neighbors with little or no support from the international community. Yet it is their similarity that draws Israel and South Sudan together. A beacon of light in the dark continent, Israel has a lot to offer the South Sudan.
Israel’s swift recognition of South Sudan is hardly surprising, however; the Israeli relationship with the new country began long before official relations were established. In fact, cooperation with African states reflects first and foremost the ideological and moral responsibility assumed by David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister, toward developing countries. In 1957, then Foreign Minister Golda Meir first visited Africa, a visit that strengthened Israel’s ethical and moral commitment to partner with the young emerging nations. And while the Israeli connection to South Sudan only recently entered the spotlight, it, too, is based on a relationship that began almost five decades ago.
Israel’s relationship with South Sudan began in the late 1960s, when leaders of the insurrection against the northern government reached out to Israel. During the period of civil war, which lasted off and on until 2005, Israeli envoys met with regional South Sudanese leaders and initiated an aid program in the spheres of agriculture and infrastructure development. Israeli aid to South Sudan was spearheaded by MASHAV, the MFA’s Agency for International Development Cooperation, and today MASHAV has several established agriculture and infrastructure projects operated in cooperation with the South Sudanese government, with the goal of enabling the fledgling nation to achieve self-sufficiency in the near future.
During his visit to Israel in December 2011, South Sudan President Salva Kiir said: "I am very excited to be here, to set foot in the Promised Land. Israel has always supported the South Sudanese people – we wouldn’t exist without you. You fought beside us to allow for the inception of South Sudan and we would like to learn from you…We have shared values. Throughout history we have overcome similar struggles. We will work with Israel in the future to bolster the strategic ties between our countries…South Sudan is interested in pursuing joint ventures with Israel in the fields of infrastructure, agriculture, water conservation and advanced technologies."