Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Takes His Diplomacy to Israel

As he continues with his diplomatic activities and forages in Africa and around the globe, current Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is making news headlines in various parts of the world.  As the Ethiopian leader was in the Middle East Jewish nation last Sunday, September 1, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described him as “one of the most important and influential leaders in Africa

During their meeting in Jerusalem, the two leaders called for the strengthening of security cooperation between Israel and Ethiopia in order to counter and avert threats by radical Islamist groups and nations to the critical international maritime transport route of the Red Sea. In a statement from his office, Netanyahu told Ahmed: "We believe that we can offer some experience, some shared experience that we have garnered because of our unfortunate need to defend ourselves.".

According  to some observers, including, Mr. Daniel Benaim,  who was advisor to immediate former  to United States of America (USA) President Barack Obama (who has paternal Kenyan origins), Israel is seeking "to deny Iran a foothold on the African side of the Red Sea from which it could transship weapons into Gaza and beyond. On its part, "Ethiopia sees a potential security partner and source of investment and innovation."

Being the second most populous country in Africa after Nigeria, with a population estimated to be around 120 million, Ethiopia now boasts of having one of the most dynamic and vibrant economies in Africa and may soon become the leading nation in the eastern region of the continent, although it is still rated as one of the poorest countries in the world.

There is a strong bond between the U.S.-backed Middle East Jewish nation and the Horn of Africa nation with over 140,000 Israeli citizens being of Ethiopian origin; more than 50,000 of them born in Israel. During the 1960s, quite a number of African nations had distanced themselves from Israel due to the wars between the Jewish state and its Arab neighbors.   It only had close links with the then apartheid regime in South Africa.

At the meeting with Ahmed, Netenyahu was quoted as saying that the Ethiopian originating Israeli nationals "bring the culture of Ethiopia, the pride of Ethiopia to Israel, just as they maintain the culture of the Jewish people and the pride of the Jewish people in Ethiopia.

While they consider themselves as Israelis, the Ethiopian community in the Jewish nation has consistently complained of institutionalized racism, complaining that they are victims of discrimination from law enforcement. Not too long ago, in June this year, when an off-duty police officer's shot dead of a young Ethiopian-Israeli man  it sparked off a wave of protests.

During his fairly long tenure as Prime Minister of Israel, Netanyahu has been making serious efforts to develop close ties with African nations, mainly as a means to garner support at international institutions and conferences, where Israel has often been severely often criticized for its occupation of Palestinian territories. In 2016, Netenyahu made the first visit ever by an Israeli head of government to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital city, which is also the headquarters of the African Union (AU).