The Times of Isreal’s full interview of Abdullahi Dool, a senior Somali diplomat who was fired last month for publicly advocating the establishment of formal relations with Israel
- How are you doing?
I am fine. Thanks to my humble positive mindset emotion does get the better of me otherwise my recent tribulations would have taken their toll.
- Last thing I know is that you were dismissed and went into exile?
I did not go into exile but my safety and security in my homeland has been seriously undermined by the publicity which was generated.
- Where are you now?
I am somewhere not far from my country.
- How long will you stay there, and do you have any plans to return to Somalia?
I don’t have crystal ball to know what tomorrow may bring, but I think I will be away for some time as the current situation is not conducive for my immediate return. I truly love my country and I am very passionate about it, but I am really going to miss my homeland.
- What are your plans for the near and long-term future?
I would like to be glued to Somalia like Sellotape. But I will need extra protection to serve in my country because of the publicity generated. Making friends and developing ties for our country are my specialty. That is what I do for a living for my country.
6. Were you surprised by the reaction your pro-Israel tweets received?
I was very surprised. I was in fact taken aback by the reaction. Little did I know my tweets, based on my personal views, will draw such a reaction! I know the difference between official tweets and ones which reflect personal opinion. As you know we are not automatons. We are human beings who have opinions.
- You must have known that your government (especially the foreign minister) would not like these tweets, and that you could get into trouble over it?
I never knew. It is stated on my Twitter page that views expressed are my own. On the other hand even if one’s views are not popular, it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be aired. There are many nowadays accepted (household) ideas which were once bizarre or taboo.
- Had you known your views would put you in trouble would you have let them known?
Yes, I would have let them known because they are my convictions.
- Do you think they owe you an apology?
I believe I am owed an apology.
- Tell me about your views on Israel. When and how did you realize that you were in favor of ties with Israel?
You are making it like coming out of a closet. I don’t see it that way. To the contrary, I believe forging ties with Israel is in the national interest of my country. We can only ignore regional or global trends at our peril. What any Foreign Service does is look after the interests of its country and no-one should be penalized for doing just that. It is our duty to give vision, purpose and direction to the foreign policy of our country. As a career diplomat, I know what I should and shouldn’t say and what my boundaries and limitations are.
- Why do you think your country should open channels with Israel?
Put it simply, it is in the national interest of our country. Who we serve and represent is our country and in doing so what we ask ourselves is: Is it in the interest of our country or not?
- What can you tell me about secret Israel-Somalia ties? Netanyahu met with your former president in 2016 – what do you know about this meeting?
I was not privy to this meeting which you mention but I saw it in the media like everybody else. It was an interesting story. Besides, since you say it was secret, it is not our habit to talk about secret matters. Remember, we are public servants. We are bound by duty to keep secrets.
- Do you think it was smart of your former president to do so?
If, as you say, our former President visited Israel and met the Israeli Prime Minister, I think it was a smart diplomatic move.
- Have Israeli and Somalia officials met since?
I am not aware of Somali officials meeting Israeli officials but I am aware of individuals who go to Israel.
- In my understanding, your president and prime minister are generally not against warming ties with Israel, but Foreign Minister Ahmed Isse Awad (who I was told is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood) is very anti-Israel. Is that accurate?
I am not aware of that. I don’t think he is anti any country. Besides I cannot talk ill of the Foreign Minister. It is against my grain to do so. Talking ill of anyone is a weakness which helps no-one and serves no purpose.
- What if what you were saying in your tweets irritated some Arab governments or organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood?
That will be a disservice to our country. It will be committing crime against ourselves and against our country. It will be a transgression against our nation which should not be allowed. Our country is not subservient to anyone. Somalia is a free country and it should be looked up not down. I know respect and trust are not given willy-nilly. They are earned. And if we want the world to respect our country it will depend on how we conduct ourselves and how we conduct the affairs of our country. Then only will the world give us respect accordingly.
- How come the president’s communication’s director Abdinur Mohamed is openly anti-Semitic who does not hide his anti Israel sentiments? We have his tweets to prove them.
I don’t think the President or the Prime Minister will allow such misconduct in their Government. As you know our country is dependent on the goodwill and support of the international community and the practise of anti-Semitism in our Government is unacceptable if not unthinkable. Bigotry is against everything we stand for as a nation. And since you bring this matter about this official out in the open, I am wondering if he will be a person of interest for Simon Wiesenthal Foundation which documents and pursues such issues. I hope not!
- Since you were mistreated by your government because of your views how come you are nice to them?
For starters, vengeance is not part of my culture. We are judged by what we do and no doubt our actions reflect on us. I believe there is nothing to be had from pettiness. One must rise above petty things. On the other I believe damaging our country, its image, interests or standing is unpatriotic. Not to mention self-defeating. You cannot cut off your nose to spit your face. If we damage the name or standing of our country, who will respect us or show us mercy? For that reason, in my view it is unpatriotic to talk ill of our officials or leaders.
- How do you evaluate your government?
The current Government had successes as well as challenges. I believe one of its greatest successes is how it tackled the 2017-2018 drought in Somalia. It mobilized the nation and mitigated the catastrophe.
- What type of society do you think your nation is building?
After decades of civil strife what we are building is a democratic society where the rule of law reigns and where our people are free to pursue their lives with little or no restrictions. On the other hand we must understand that democracy does not mean anarchy. Always there are things we cannot do even in democracy. There must be a balance between the right of the individual and the right of the society.
Since we are building a democratic society the leadership of our country has a fixed term of 4 years. In their allocated time it is best to let them get on with the tasks at hand and strive for the nation. Did you ever see George Bush or Barak Obama talk ill of the incumbent Donald Trump? They never do. They let history be his judge.
- Does the government enjoy a wide support from its people?
First and foremost, in every country, the government belongs to its people. In Somalia too, the Government belongs to us, its people. And as you know there is only one leadership and one government at a time. Not to mention governing in any country is tough and full of challenges. I believe those who are governing will need every support they can get otherwise they will be less effective if they are overwhelmed. The question is: whose time will be wasted if national leaders become ineffective? If you waste one person’s time it is a negligible loss but imagine if a nation’s time is wasted? It will be a colossal misfortune. For that reason the right thing to do is to let the leadership of any country do their job. However, for those who are thinking of contesting positions in Somalia the general election is 2 years away. It is not a long wait to contest any seat or high office in the land.
- Are there things you don’t like in the politics of your nation?
In every political system there are things one may not like. Since we cannot talk about everything at one go let us deal with this question in future interviews.
- Will you support your current leadership at the next election?
By nature I love fidelity and I hate infidelity. Let me elaborate. I am a civil servant and it is incumbent on civil servants to support the government of the day. However, in elections even civil servants are free to support or elect whoever they want or whoever they feel they can benefit the nation. But it is too early to discuss this matter now as the general election in Somalia is two years away. Let me add this point. I will always support those whom I believe have the best interests at heart for our country.
- How many members of the Somali government do you think are pro-Israel, how many are anti?
I didn’t count them but let me put it this way. I believe ties with Israel are in our national interest. In any Foreign Service no issue is more important than one’s nation’s interests?
- I was told that some Somalis are sick and tired of the Arab League and want to leave. Is that correct?
This is absolutely not true. Besides, in our Foreign Service, our job is to open doors and built bridges for our country not close down ones that are open. We are part of the Arab world. And I don’t think Somalia will ever leave the Arab League. Nevertheless, Somalia is free to forge ties with any nation. On the other hand it is true that there are Somalis, such as the ones you mention in your question, who are utterly disappointed with how little the Arab world (with the exception of a few countries) did for Somalia in the 20 years our country was in civil war.
- How many ordinary Somalis do you think would be in favor of better ties with Israel?
I believe the vast majority of our people will welcome ties with Israel. Our people remember how Israel stood with Somalia and supported our independence at the UN and they never forgot this favor.
- Do you recall any collaboration between Israel and your country ever having taken place?
It is in history books. In 1950 at the UN, during a vote which country, between Libya and Somalia, should be granted independence, Israel stood with Somalia and supported our independence. Our people feel gratitude because of Israel’s support of our freedom.
- How do you see harmony and cooperation between Jews and Muslims in general?
Personally, I would like to see the ushering in of a new era of harmony, mutual respect and cooperation between Jews & Muslims throughout the world. It is shame that nowadays people from different faiths, who have everything to benefit from mutual collaboration, are pitied against one another or seeds of mistrust sown between them. I believe this is mainly coming from the supremacists. I know all supremacists are evil whichever side they are on. They know nothing but peddle bigotry and hatred. Leadership will be needed to bring together different communities across the globe. Our Jewish & Muslim communities in the US, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere have no basis to hate one another but every reason to cherish one another and help each other.
- How do you see the Palestinians?
I wish the Palestinians well. My views on the Palestinians are in line with the national position of my country which is a belief in the two-state solution where the two nations live side by side in peace and harmony.
- How do you see advancing ties between Muslim countries and Israel?
There are over 20 Muslim countries which have diplomatic ties with Israel out of 57 nations which are in the OIC (Organization of the Islamic Cooperation). There is absolutely no reason why Somalia too should not forge diplomatic ties with Israel. I am wondering why we waited this long? Shunning Israel will not help the Palestinians a whisker. To the contrary if the Palestinians engage and thaw ties with Israel their differences can be narrowed and it will help both sides to mutually arrive at an agreement or a settlement. After all the Israelis and the Palestinians are neighbors and they must talk to one another otherwise nothing will ever get solved between them. I believe this is the only sensible thing to do.
- What are your views on anti-Semitism?
Anti-Semitism is bigotry which should be fought similar to other forms of hatred & discrimination. I understand why the Jewish people feel vehemently against anti-Semitism and I will have no qualms to say this. There are no people created to be hated. We are all the same and we are all on a journey called life. We must leave judgement to Judgement Day.
The Jews are highly gifted people. They have contributed to every aspect of life. They have enriched every field in science, medicines, technology, arts and culture as well as in different areas of human development. The answer to their resentment of anti-Semitism lies in their 2000 years struggle and in the extermination of 6 million Jews in concentration camps by the Nazis. In the aftermath of the Holocaust, their solemn vow was never again! I was told that the anti-Semitic extermination of 6 million Jews was the reason behind building Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial Center.
- How do you see your country establishing ties with Israel anytime soon?
I am a staunch supporter of my country establishing diplomatic ties with Israel. I know many Somalis who are in favor of this move. Like myself they wonder why it has taken this long.
For those who may not know Israel has immense influence in the region and throughout the world. I am convinced that ties with Israel will be in our mutual interest. One of the reasons we need to establish ties with Israel sooner rather than later is to bring an end to the war of the extremists which is being waged against our people on a daily basis. The bloodletting of our people must end sooner than later and we will need every help we can get to achieve this goal.
I believe Israel can help Somalia swing the pendulum of violence in our country’s favour. Israel can also open doors for Somalia because of its influence in the region and globally. They say time and tide wait for no man and I believe ties with Israel should have been established a long time ago. But this is now something I have taken on as a mission which should be accomplished.
- How do you see the future of your country?
Somalia is potentially a very rich nation. Our country has all the ingredients of success. Apart from its well known blessings, Somalia has a dynamic, vibrant and entrepreneurial population of which over 35% are less than 30 years old. I believe the future of Somalia is very bright.
As someone who loves his country, I believe the best days of our nation are ahead of us. If I didn’t seriously believe in this, in 2011, I wouldn’t have left the relative safety in Europe to serve in Mogadishu. In the 8 years I was serving in my homeland I had many encounters with danger including near misses of death and at least 3 bombings one of them which broke my left shoulder and also which damaged my teeth. But it goes with the territory. I am from a patriotic family. One of my brothers Lieutenant Abdisalam Dool, who was in the commando of our National Army paid with his life on 13 March 1984 defending Somalia from the army of the then communist government of Col. Mengistu of Ethiopia. But I have no ill feelings towards our neighbors. Col. Mengistu too has long gone in exile and my late brother was in the army to kill or get killed defending his country.
The Times of Israel