Palestinian National Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh urged the African Union to withdraw Israel's accreditation, on Saturday, awakening simmering tensions as the 55-member bloc opened a two-day summit in Addis Ababa.
Even as the continent reels from a spate of military coups and the COVID pandemic, the relationship with Israel is expected to shift during the summit this weekend.
The dispute was set in motion last July when Moussa Faki Mahamat, chair of the African Union Commission, accepted Israel's accreditation to the bloc, triggering a rare dispute within a body that values consensus.
As heads of state gathered in Ethiopia's capital, Shtayyeh called on the body to reject Faki's move: "Israel should never be rewarded for its violation and for the apartheid regime it does impose on the Palestinian people," he said.
"Your honor, I'm sorry to report to you that the situation of the Palestinian people has only grown more precarious." Faki responded.
The summit may see a vote on whether to back or reject Faki's decision, which could yield an unprecedented split in the bloc.
Israel's accreditation last year drew quick protest from influential members, including South Africa and Algeria, which argued that it abruptly contradicted AU statements supporting the Palestinian Territories.
Earlier Saturday, Faki said the AU's commitment to the Palestinian push for independence was "unchanging and can only continue to go stronger."
However, he defended Israel's accreditation, saying it could be "an instrument in the service of peace" while calling for "a serene debate" on the issue.
First published: 09:01, 02.06.22