Kenya president visits West Bank kibbutz, roiling Palestinians

Julie Wiener

(JTA) — Kenya’s president was validating Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem with his visits there on his first official trip to Israel, Palestinian leaders said.

Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi said Thursday that the Palestinians plan to complain to the African Union and other regional organizations about Uhuru Kenyatta’s trip this week, The Associated Press reported. Kenyatta did not visit any Palestinian cities, further roiling the Palestinians.

“This is an important foreign visit that was planned long ago,” Israel’s Foreign Ministry said, according to Army Radio citing the Times of Israel. “The request to visit Ramallah was filed at the last minute and unfortunately there is no way to approve it.”

Kenyatta, who arrived in Israel on Monday for a three-day state visit, was making the first trip by a Kenyan president since Daniel Moi in 1994, according to The Jerusalem Post.

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In the West Bank, Kenyatta went to a kibbutz on the Dead Sea where Kenyan students are participating in an irrigation training program. He also went to the Western Wall, in the eastern part of Jerusalem, which Israel conquered in the Six-Day War.

Kenyatta and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signed agreements on irrigation and agriculture, strengthening already solid ties between the countries. According to Kenya’s The Daily Nation, the two nations also committed to joint security training.

Israel also agreed to consider a proposal to bring in more Kenyan workers, The Daily Nation reported. Kenya’s ambassador to Israel, Agostino Njoroge, told the publication that the number of Kenyan workers in Israel has dropped to 200 from 2,000 in the past 10 years as a result of Israel’s tougher immigration laws and security concerns.

Kenya is seeking an agreement to have recruitment agencies contract Kenyan workers for short stints in the Jewish state and also wants to increase the number of Kenyan students undergoing agricultural training in Israel.

The Daily Nation said the Israeli government is funding free training for 100 Kenyans in irrigation engineering in Israel.

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Kenyatta’s spokesperson did not immediately respond to the AP’s request for comment about the Palestinians.

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