“We are different from many African countries. We represent Africa as the gateway and will do everything to make African and Israeli relations mushroom.”
In what has become a tradition at meetings between Israeli and Ethiopian leaders, both President Reuven Rivlin and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn reminisced on the biblical references of the visit of the Queen of Sheba to Jerusalem to meet with King Solomon during their meeting on Monday at the President’s Residence.
Desalegn, who arrived with a large delegation, wrote in the guest book: “I am blessed to be in the Holy Land.”
This was one of many visits that Desalegn has made to Israel, as Rivlin reminded him. Rivlin thanked him in particular for attending the funeral of president Shimon Peres last year.
Rivlin noted that Ethiopia or the Queen of Sheba are mentioned in the Bible more than 50 times, “so we have a real connection.”
Acknowledging that the relationship dates back many centuries, Desalegn said that it was something to cherish, but that the current relationship should be deepened. “We have Israel always in our hearts,” he said. “We are different from many African countries. We represent Africa as the gateway and will do everything to make African and Israeli relations mushroom.”
Desalegn came to bring relations between his own country and Israel “to a new high level,” he said, adding that all East African states were happy about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to East Africa last July.
Desalegn was also happy about Netanyahu’s visit to West Africa this week, saying that it demonstrates his dedication to the African cause.
Quoting Netanyahu on a visit to Addis Ababa last year, Desalegn said, “Israel comes back to Africa and Africa comes back to Israel.”
Ethiopia has a strong desire to benefit from Israeli science and technology, said Desalegn, adding, “We haven’t come to re-invent the wheel.”
Israel and Ethiopia and the world at large, for that matter, face common problems of terrorism, extremism and climate change, and should therefore work in close cooperation, said Desalegn.
Concurring with this sentiment, Rivlin said: “We want you to be our sponsors in Africa so that we can attend meetings as observers.”
Rivlin also spoke in glowing terms of Israel’s Ethiopian community, which he said includes high-ranking army officers, doctors, pilots and even an ambassador.