A Diamond Is Forever

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(Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Photo by GPO)

Israel, Liberia Sign Diamond Cooperation Agreement

“The Israel Diamond Institute (IDI) signed a cooperation deal with Liberia on Tuesday as it sought to expand rough diamond sources and as the West African nation rebuilt an economy devastated by war. Earlier this year, the UN security council lifted an embargo on gem exports from Liberia after the country complied with the Kimberley Process, a mechanism to prevent the sale of diamonds from conflicts by requiring government certificates for gems to show they come from legitimate sources…” Click for full article.

Israel has a long history of working with African nations in the agricultural, military and development sectors in particular. Given Liberia’s recent and brutal civil war fueled in part by the trade of “blood diamonds”, let’s hope that this latest development will be a positive one for Liberia’s economy (which has an astonishing 85% unemployment rate), and won’t lead to more violence. Possession of raw materials has proved a two-edged sword for African nations. As Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf on tuesday during a meeting with the The Israel Diamond Institute (IDI), “Mineral wealth has played a major role in the past, not in serving the needs of our people but in promoting conflict… In fact, for us and some of our neighboring countries that are resource-rich, these resources were characterized as a resource curse.”

The diamond sector is one of Israel’s largest industries, according to Reuters, “In 2006 polished diamonds accounted for nearly $7 billion of total exports of $39 billion. African mines have been a growing source of rough diamonds for Israel.” For those interested, as part of a background study of how Israel-African relations came to be, Fouad Ajami and Martin H. Sours write,

“Israel’s response to the emergence of the developing world was to emphasize the unique contribution it could make to the cause of development (in Africa). Unable to compete with either West or East in terms of the financial aid it could provide, it sought t o stress its potential in the realms of technical aid and assistance in developmental projects. Due to the surplus in its skilled manpower and its recent experience in development, Israel was able to offer itself as a possible developmental model. To many developing nations, the credibility of this model was more seriously taken than that of the two major competing models: the Soviet Union and the United States.

On a more concrete level, some of Israel’s own innovations offered special attraction to the African states. Israel’s cooperatives, the Kibbutz and the Moshav, were seen as ways of improving agriculture and mobilizing large numbers of people and even utilizing the basic tribal unit. Youth movements which are characteristic of Israeli society and of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union were introduced to several African nations. Ghana’s Young Pioneers was based on the Eastern European model. The use of the Israeli Nahal (Fighting Pioneer youth) and the Gadna (youth battalions) system which combines military service with agricultural pioneering has been adopted by Tanzania, the Ivory Coast, Chad, Dahomey, and the Cameroon.”

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