Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, seeks to boost bilateral security collaboration with Ethiopia, in what some analysts described as the Prime Minister’s move to strengthen Israel’s influence in Africa.
Netanyahu on Sunday met Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, who was on an official visit to Jerusalem, at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem.
During a joint press conference, Netanyahu told Ahmed: “We know that the first prerequisite of the government of any society is security. We are both being challenged. We’re being challenged by radical Islamic terrorists. They not only challenge us, but they also challenge the world”.
He also expressed Israel’s readiness to offer and share with Ethiopia, experiences which both countries have garnered “because of our unfortunate need to defend ourselves,” reports Middle East Monitor.
Netanyahu lauded the “friendship” between both countries, citing recent incidents, which he described as “humanitarian efforts” by the Ethiopian government to strengthen its relationship with Jerusalem.
“I thank you and your government for your just great humanitarian efforts to locate the missing Israeli tourist Aya Naamneh and returning her body home, and equally for the efforts made to identify one of the two Israelis killed in the Air Ethiopia crash, Shimon Re’em, and returning his body to Israel. I know you made extraordinary efforts in that regard, and we are still working on a second Israeli in that tragic airplane crash. But you immediately responded to my requests as a sign of both humanity and friendship,” said Netanyahu.
He further acknowledged the presence of thousands of Ethiopian Jews in Israel, and commended Ahmed’s “courage in promoting the standing of Ethiopia both internationally and regionally”.
Ahmed in his speech commiserated with the family of Solomon Teka, who was murdered by an Israeli policeman in July.
Before concluding the state visit, Ahmed met with the mother of Avera Mengistu, one of three Israelis who are being held in the besieged Gaza Strip.
Israel’s increasing interest in Africa is seen by some analysts as a deliberate economic and diplomatic “pivot to Africa” in a bid to strengthen Jerusalem’s allies in the region.
Addis Ababa and Jerusalem have held formal diplomatic relations since 1992. The bilateral relationship took a new turn with the visit of Netanyahu to Ethiopia in 2016. During the visit, Netanyahu called for increased cooperation with the East African nation on matters regarding to defence and security, as well as in other areas of mutual interest, including agriculture, communications, education; tourism and trade.
The 2016 state visit heralded the Ethiopian-Israeli Business Forum which was held in May 2018 in Addis Ababa. The Forum focused on building public-private cooperation for both nations on energy, infrastructure, security and public health.
Since 2009, Netanyahu has shown interest in establishing bilateral cooperation with many African countries in a bid to “dissuade the continent’s support for Palestine in international institutions”. The Prime Minister has visited Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Chad in the past few years.
Some analysts envisage increased Israeli presence in Africa’s security and intelligent assets with a growing number of arms deals and intelligent exchanges.
The successful launch of Israel’s AMOS-17 communications satellite, which is focused on Africa, further buttresses the idea of Israel’s “pivot to Africa”.
Joseph Ibeh is a Mandela Washington Fellow and Senior Analyst at Space in Africa. His experience spans industry research and market analysis with a focus on African-grown NewSpace companies, commercial space industry, national space programmes and real-life application of space science for sustainable development in Africa.