Ethiopian prime minister visits Israel, strengthens ties between countries

Israel Hayom | Thursday June 8, 2017

Israeli, Ethiopian prime ministers discuss diplomacy, business, security • Ethiopian prime minister lauds Ethiopian Jewry as bridge between countries • Netanyahu praises Ethiopia for stance against terrorism, specifically al-Qaida affiliate in Africa.

Hezi Sternlicht and Israel Hayom Staff

Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn in a ceremony at Netanya Academic College on Wednesday evening, marking the end of his visit Photo credit: Yehuda Peretz

Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn concluded a state visit to Israel on Wednesday evening, after meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem a day earlier.

Netanyahu welcomed Desalegn in a ceremony in Jerusalem on Tuesday. The two prime ministers and their spouses dined together that evening at the Prime Minister’s Residence.

“Welcome, on behalf of the people of Israel and the government of Israel,” Netanyahu said in the ceremony, “I welcome you to Jerusalem.”

“Since my visit [last July] to Ethiopia,” Netanyahu said, “we’ve increased our economic cooperation, and I look forward to deepening that today, particularly in water. This is an area that Prime Minister Desalegn knows particularly well — he is a great engineer of water and he understands the full potential of what can be done with it. In agriculture as well, in heath, security, in all these areas and many others. Israel is a world leader in these fields and we hope that by working together we can solve some pressing problems, and just provide a better future for both our peoples.”

Israel and Ethiopia “face a common challenge,” Netanyahu said.

“Ethiopia takes a strong stand in the fight against terrorism, particular against [al-Qaida affiliate] al-Shabab. We must continue to work together to defeat this scourge, across the world, in Africa, in Europe, in London — just recently, in America, in Asia, we have to fight together against these forces of barbarism because we must seize the future, we must advance modernity,” Netanyahu continued.

On Wednesday evening, Netanya Academic College hosted a much-attended ceremony to conclude the visit. Desalegn brought an entourage of senior Ethiopian officials, including 12 of his ministers.

“I had a wonderful visit in Israel,” Desalegn told Israel Hayom.

He and Netanyahu are very close friends, he said, and noted that strengthening diplomatic ties between the two countries can be a platform from which Netanyahu will broaden Israeli diplomatic relations in Africa. He expressed his desire to see Africa and Israel rise to the next high level in their relationship. “We are very committed to strengthening these ties,” he said.

The visit also promoted talks on Ethiopian Jewry, which he and Netanyahu see as a bridge between the two countries. He noted that Ethiopian Jews were very active in Israel, particularly the second generation. He said discovered that they work hard to strengthen their connection with their history, which was one of the subjects brought up in his meetings here.

Desalegn sees his visit in Israel as a driving force for business between Israel and Ethiopia. During his trip, he also spoke to the business community in Jerusalem, speaking of Ethiopia’s desire to see more investment in Ethiopia, especially in agricultural high-tech. Ethiopia is working hard on a large-scale project with Netafim, an Israeli agriculture company specializing in drip and micro-irrigation technology, and interested in developing modern technologies for coffee plantations, he said. Coffee originated in Ethiopia, according to Desalegn, and the country knows that by introducing new technologies it will be able to increase output sixfold.

The ceremony in Netanya was attended by MK Avraham Neguise (Likud), businesspeople and foreign diplomats, including the Egyptian, Rwandan and Zambian ambassadors. Netanya Academic College’s business school and its dean, Dr. Gabi Ravid, are working with the Israel-Africa Chamber of Commerce to bring academic and business relations between Israel and African countries closer together. The gala in the Ethiopian prime minister’s honor was held with this in mind, along with the participation of the prime ministers’ entourages, Israel-Africa Chamber of Commerce’s President Niso Bezalel and CEO Ayala Wittner, representatives of the Foreign Ministry, and many other business entities.

Relations between Israel and Africa have warmed in recent years. Desalegn’s visit comes after Netanyahu returned from many high-ranking diplomatic meetings in West and East Africa. Ethiopia, where Netanyahu visited last July, is considered one of the most stable countries in Africa.

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