Israel and Ivory Coast announced today that they will resume diplomatic relations, breaking a logjam in Israel's effort to regain a standing in black Africa and reduce its isolation in the Third World.
Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres said he expected two other black African states to restore ties with Israel in "the very near future," but he would not name them.
Peres made an unannounced trip to Geneva, where he met for two hours with Ivory Coast President Felix Houphouet-Boigny before the two leaders announced their decision to establish embassies in Tel Aviv and Abidjan as soon as their governments give final approval.
David Kimche, director general of the Foreign Ministry, said he expected reopening of embassies within a few weeks.
Israeli officials here said they hoped the announcement would start a chain reaction among black African nations that broke relations with Israel in 1972 and 1973, partly on the ground that it had occupied territory of Egypt, a member of the Organization of African Unity, but also under strong pressure from Arab oil-producing states.
Before 1973, Israel was one of the most politically active foreign countries on the continent, maintaining formal ties with 27 black states and training and financially aiding black nationalists opposing colonial regimes.
For Israel, regaining a diplomatic foothold in West Africa represents a significant break in the isolation that has separated it from most of the Third World, edging it toward right-wing governments such as South Africa, Taiwan and Chile.
In 1982, Israel restored diplomatic relations with Zaire and a year later with Liberia. Lesotho, Malawi and Swaziland, all under the influence of South Africa, are the only black African countries that did not break ties with Israel.
Foreign Ministry sources here said that the next African states most likely to resume relations are those in which Israel openly maintains interests sections: Kenya, Togo, Gabon, Upper Volta, Ghana, Cameroon and Guinea. Israel also has secret trade missions in at least seven other African states.