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Special to the JTA Senegal is Friendly Towards Israel

September 13, 1978
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Most African states under moderate regimes are looking with hope to the initiative of President Carter for a peaceful solution of the Arab-Israel conflict and expect a softening of the “rigid stand” of Israeli Premier Menachem Begin towards Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s “inclination to compromise.”

This is the evaluation of the American Ambassador to Senegal and Gambia, Herman J. Cohen, made during his brief visit to Paris in an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Cohen stressed that President Leopold Senghor of Senegal and King Hassan II of Morocco are key figures in promoting moderation in troubled Africa and particularly in supporting the American initiative towards the easing of tension in the Middle East.

Cohen, a native of the Bronx, N.Y. and a son of a Jewish shopkeeper, is a career diplomat who for many years occupied important positions in the American Embassy in Paris. Since 1963 he served in Rhodesia, Uganda and Zaire, and in July 1977 was appointed Ambassador to Dakar (Senegal) and Banjul (Gambia). He is a keen observer of the African scene, of which Dakar is a focal point and main channel for American help for African nations resisting Soviet and Cuban infiltration.


According to Cohen, Senghor looks hopefully for the opportunity of resuming diplomatic relations with Israel and maintains uninterrupted friendly contacts with the leaders of the Israeli labor movement. Only recently former Premier Shimon Peres was a personal guest of Senghor. The Israeli economist, Joseph Golan, is still an advisor of the government of Senegal and is a frequent visitor to Dakar.

The Palestine Liberation Organization maintains an office in Dakar, headed by Dr. Assam Sartawi, considered a moderate in the entourage of PLO chief Yasir Arafat. While establishing an office in Dakar, the PLO was warned by the government that they will be expelled from the country at the slightest incident caused by their activities, Cohen said.

The press in Senegal is supporting the idea of an independent Palestinian State on the West Bank and Gaza, but stresses the necessity for adequate guarantees for Israel’s independence and secure borders. The support for the PLO in the press of Senegal is in sharp contradiction to the alarming headlines about the danger of Soviet infiltration in Africa, thus ignoring the incontestable fact that the PLO serves as the Soviet proxy in the Middle East, the Ambassador observed.

Cohen related that at a recent conference of the Foreign Ministers of 50 Islamic countries, held in Dakar, the resolution calling for the establishment of a Palestinian State was considerably modified in its anti-Israeli stance due to the intervention of Senghor.

Speaking about life in Senegal, Cohen stressed that among the population of over six million, only five percent are Christians. The Christian minority, however, occupies key positions in the government and Senghor, himself a Catholic, enjoys great popularity among the predominantly Moslem population.

According to Cohen, there are only two Jews in Dakar: one is a member of the City Council, and the other is a merchant of Greek origin who takes upon himself the task of mobilizing every year the Jewish tourists passing through Dakar in order to have a minyan for services on the High Holy Days that take place in his own home.

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