Ambassador: Tel Aviv Supports Ethiopian Interests
I did an interview on Friday with the Ambassador of Israel to Ethiopia, Burundi and Chad - H.E. Aleligne Admasu.
Aleligne Admasu who himself was born in Ethiopia in 1961 and moved to Israel in 1983 strongly believes that Israel’s bright future depends largely on its relations with African countries.
“Since its establishment as a state in 1948, Israel has placed great importance on foreign policy. This is because it had been under a political and economic boycott by surrounding Arab countries. As a result, Israel pursued reliable political allies and trading partners in order to bring stability and support for itself” Said the Ambassador.
As of Israel’s relations with African countries in recent years he continued, “Netanyahu visited sub-Saharan Africa in July 2016. He carefully chose Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda. Ethiopia and Kenya had close ties with Israel in the past. And they were engaged in security cooperation against the threat of Islamist terrorism and were sympathetic to Israel’s goal of achieving African Union observer status. Also, in 2019 we re-established relations with Chad, which had been broken off in 1972.”
Admasu is very optimistic regarding Israel’s current relations with Ethiopia and thinks that this good relationship will help Israel to have the upper hand with regards to some of its neighboring countries, “Good relations with Ethiopia is not only necessary to make Ethiopian Jews closer to Israel but it is also important because of its geopolitical stance. For instance, they had water and electricity problems that we were able to solve and at the same time we had Egypt beside us that was not only a rival but also considered potentially as an enemy and we had to figure out a solution to their hostility towards us. We knew that their country relies on the Nile River but the water had to pass Ethiopia first in order to reach their country. So, by solving Ethiopia’s electricity and water problems, by building the Al-Nahda dam we would kill two birds with one stone.”
The ambassador emphasized “If Ethiopia fills the reservoir between a 5-to-7-year period, then Egypt’s water share will be decreased by somewhere from 12 to 25 percent during the filling period. So, it would be much better for the Egyptians that the reservoir be filled over a more extended period of time. But I think Ethiopia has the right to fill the dam by the end of 2023 in order to answer the needs of its people. Ethiopia doesn’t have enough food to feed its people.”
When I asked him about the apparent consequences of filling the dam and the fear that a drought will occur during the filling period, he said “The dam will hold a lot of silt behind it, and also some types of fish will totally disappear. This will have a negative economic and social impact on fishing and agriculture in Egypt and Sudan. Egypt, on the other hand, has a strong agricultural sector. Egypt could offer Ethiopia agricultural investment projects and ask for a share of the electricity that the dam will produce.”
I told Admasu that most of the internationally known environmental institutions have stated that the construction and filing of the dam, will be followed by severe droughts that will hit downstream countries like Sudan and Egypt. Therefore, they have suggested the establishment of a joint commission to control the amount of water behind the dam to prevent such disasters. The Egyptian government also believes that the Nile River has been a part of Egypt history and they have a legal right to it.
“Joint commissions will be meaningful after Egypt and Sudan recognize Addis Ababa’s ownership of the water sources. Israel’s stance is clear, these countries must stop bullying Ethiopia and they have to become rational. Regarding the second part of your question, Ethiopia prefers to have the flexibility to make decisions on how to deal with droughts. Egypt should abandon continued references to its so-called natural historical rights.” The ambassador noted.
When I asked him if he anticipates a conflict between Ethiopia and Egypt or Sudan. He replied, “The support of various countries for Ethiopia will not allow Egypt and Sudan to do so.”
Finally, the ambassador noted that Israeli companies are ready to provide Egypt with the necessary technology to supply the drinking water it needs from the Mediterranean Sea.