Capital Ethiopia Newspaper

Israel’s PM Africa visit put on hold

A plan by Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to make a historic visit in Africa, possibly with a stop in Addis Ababa, has been put on hold, said the Israeli Ambassador to Ethiopia.
“As far as I know the PM’s intention to visit Africa has been put on hold because of different difficulties we have in the region today,” said Oded Ben-Haim, Israel Ambassador to Ethiopia, in an exclusive interview with Capital.
It is not known when Netanyahu will come to Africa but the ambassador said it is not in the “immediate future.”
PM Netanyahu was scheduled to a make a historic trip to sub-Saharan Africa this month. The trip was to signal the Jewish State’s interest in forging alliances in the region, Israel media outlets reported when the trip was first announced back in December.
“I intend to travel to Africa to discuss and advance procedures for returning migrants to Africa,” Netanyahu was quoted as saying indicating that the trip was also aimed at curbing illegal immigrants’ that reportedly concern the country.
Among the potential countries on the docket of the suspended trip were: Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia, according to the reports. The leaders of Kenya and Uganda both visited Israel in November, and have expressed an interest in hosting the PM, according to media reports.
The trip would have been a first for an Israeli PM since the late Levi Eshkol came to the continent in 1966.
Most African countries including Ethiopia cut ties with Israel after the fourth Isreali-Arab war in October 1973.
“Because of lack of diplomatic relations with Africa since 1973 we moved to other parts of the world. In the last 20 years it was the emerging tigers of Asia so we geared to Asia. And also since our exports are mainly high tech we geared up to mostly the developed world,” explained Ambassador Ben-Haim in a Capital interview.
Ethiopia in 1989 and many other African countries few years later revived cooperation with Tel Aviv but relations especially economic ties remain poor.
“The emerging of Africa came to the attention of the decision makers of Israel. The emphasis of Africa is growing especially in the economic community and the visit of the PM could really bring it to climax,” says Ben-Haim predicting economic ties to be strengthened in the coming years between the Jewish State and the continent.
“Unfortunately it [the PM’s visit] was only an idea. The will is there but it is not in the immediate future,” added Ben-Haim.
The Israeli ambassador, during a Capital interview, downplayed the Palestinian top official’s latest remarks that African countries including Ethiopia are likely to support the Palestine membership bid as the January 26th deadline for a start of Palestine-Israeli negotiation failed and Palestinians contemplates revamping their bid at the United Nations.
The ambassador further discussed Palestine-Israeli ongoing conflict, Ethiopian-Israeli bilateral ties, and also responded to questions such as the controversial claim by Mauritanian authorities who said Ethiopian Airlines ET-409 flight was brought down by Israeli network of spies in Africa. Capital will feature the full excerpts of the ambassador’s interview in next week’s issue.