Israeli head of state visits Ethiopia for first time


Israel is hoping to use bilateral relationships in Africa to improve its image globally, says researcher

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin (3rd L) stands next to Ethiopian President Mulatu Teshome Wirtu (2nd L) as they inspect honour guard during an official welcoming ceremony at the National Palace in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on May 2, 2018. ( Minasse Wondimu Hailu - Anadolu Agency )By Addis Getachew and Tufan Aktas


President Reuven Rivlin made history in Ethiopia on Wednesday by becoming the first Israeli head of state to visit the Horn of Africa country, during which both sides vowed to bolster their longstanding ties through partnerships.

Speaking at a joint press briefing, Ethiopian President Mulatu Teshome said ties between Ethiopia and Israel date back 3,000 years when the then Ethiopian Queen, Makda (who was the queen of Sheeba kingdom) visited King Solomon in Jerusalem.

Mulatu termed the bilateral ties as “legendary, eclectic, sentimental and excellent”.

He called for stronger economic ties, including the ratcheting up of trade and investment.

Israel has pledged to give technical assistance to Ethiopia through its official development arm Mashav, he added.

Rivlin said Israel has succeeded in achieving successful results in food security, agriculture and technology over the past 70 years.

“We want to partner with you in these sectors,” he said.

He also asked Ethiopia to help Israel in achieving the release of Israeli soldiers held by Hamas.

Institute of Security Studies researcher Zackary Donnenfeld told Anadolu Agency Israel was scrambling to maintain its realm of influence in Africa as shown through the recent visits of Israeli high-level delegations to the region.

- Bid to improve image?

“My broad interpretation is that Israel is trying to reset its relations with much of Africa, particularly in East Africa and the Horn.

“East Africa is strategically important to Israel from a security perspective [being the gateway to the Red Sea] but also increasingly from an economic one,” Donnenfeld said.

“Kenya and Ethiopia are two of the fastest growing economies on the continent and represent potentially huge markets.”

He said Israel was looking to leverage private sector expertise in the agricultural and technology sectors to help unlock economic and human development in these countries.

He added Israel was looking to export some of its technology in water, agriculture and security along with more traditional goods.

“I think Israel is hoping to use these bilateral relationships in Africa to improve its image globally, and perhaps expand a potentially favorable voting bloc in international forums -- but this is an ancillary goal and unlikely to happen,” he said.

“The failure to resolve the Palestinian question -- and refrain from illegal settlement expansion -- and Israel's support for apartheid in South Africa will hamper efforts to court any significant support.”

Israel's goals in Africa were mostly economic and security related, according to the researcher.

“It is looking to new actors [primarily Ethiopia] for security partnerships in East Africa, and looking to export technology to whoever is willing to use it. An improved image would be welcome, but is more of a long-game I reckon.”


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