PM Netanyahu addresses the Ethiopian parliament
All nations are threatened by the forces of terror. The terrorists see us, all of us, as one. We must fight them as one. And I want to pledge to you one thing: We can defeat them; we will defeat them; but working together we'll defeat them even faster.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, today (Thursday, 7 July 2016), delivered the following address to the Ethiopian Parliament:
"Salaam. I am so excited to be here. My delegation is excited to be here. My wife is excited to be here. And I want to recognize three outstanding members of our parliament who are also excited to be here, though they've been here before: Member of Knesset Avraham Neguise; former Member of Knesset Pnina Tamano-Shata; and our ambassador here in Addis Ababa, Belaynesh Zevadia.
I am absolutely thrilled to be the first prime minister of Israel to visit Ethiopia ever. Well, what took you so long? And the answer is: I don't know, but I'm already planning the next visit.
Ethiopia is a resplendent land, rich in history, diverse in culture, pregnant with promise. The Prime Minister said today in our meeting, he said something that is so true. He said Israel has a place in the hearts of Ethiopians and Ethiopia has a place in the hearts of Israelis, in the hearts of the Jewish people. I bring you greetings from Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish people, the place where I grew up and the place where the Queen of Sheba met King Solomon 3,000 years ago.
One of the most beautiful streets in Jerusalem, in the heart of the city, is a street called Ethiopia Street, and in my youth, I would pass, I would walk past the majestic Ethiopian church on it. And I felt always that it was just one expression of the enduring bonds between our peoples – bonds of history, bonds of values, and increasingly bonds of interests.
Our historical bond continued from the Solomonic era through the rise of Christianity to this day. Our values, I think the bonds of history gave rise to the bonds of values. The birth of the Jewish people is interwoven with the birth of our freedom, the story of the exodus. We were brought from slavery to freedom to our land, the land of Israel.
You in Ethiopia, you fought for your freedom. You maintain your freedom throughout the centuries. For millennia, your nation has proudly fought for and maintained its independence. We respect you for it. We admire you for it. You resisted foreign rule and live as a free people in your ancestral homeland. And we too live as a free and independent people in our ancestral homeland. The struggle for freedom unites our two nations, as does the second value we share, which is nation-building.
Our return to the land of Israel was just the beginning. We then needed to build our state, a dynamic state, a powerful state. We recognized early on that the diversity of our citizens would be a source of great bonding. Today we draw upon the skills and wisdom of all our citizens – Arabs, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Druze and Jews from Ethiopia. Thousands of Ethiopian Jews serve in our army, participate in our politics, take part in our economy, in our culture. They help enrich Israeli society every day and in every way. They act as a human bridge between our two peoples.
On the way here, I spoke to two young flight attendants of Ethiopian descent. They are proud to be Israelis and they're proud of their Ethiopian heritage. And one of them is seeing her family here for the first time in seven years. What excitement! It's the excitement we all feel in coming here and rekindling our friendship.
Our Declaration of Independence guarantees the rights of citizens, regardless of religion, race or gender. And in fact, you know that protecting the access of all in the Middle East to the freedom of faith is a great challenge. Israel today is the only country in the Middle East that fully guarantees the religious freedom for all – for Jews, for Muslims and Christians. You know that Christians are being slaughtered by ISIS and brutally repressed by the Iranian regime. In Israel, as in Ethiopia, Christians thrive, and I am proud that our Christians, the Christian community in both our countries are safe, secure and free. This is something we uphold for all religions – all religions – Muslims, Christians and Jews alike. It's the values we should uphold everywhere in the Middle East and everywhere in the world – in Africa, in Europe, everywhere. Freedom of faith for all.
Ladies and gentlemen,
These common values, these common bonds of history and values, have led to common interests. Our two nations, and every country, are threatened by the forces of terror. I've spoken to African leaders this week in Entebbe, in Kenya, in Rwanda and of course with Prime Minister Hailemariam of Ethiopia. I think all Africa's leaders understand this danger well. We've witnessed attacks in countries across the continent and around the world. We've seen fanatics who seek to impose a medieval barbarism on all humanity. They deliberately target civilians. They systematically murder innocent men, women and children, in malls, in universities, in cafes, in hotels.
It's important to understand that the terrorists see us, all of us, as one. And we must fight them as one. And I want to pledge to you one thing: We can defeat them; we will defeat them; but working together we'll defeat them even faster.
Ensuring security is our first common interest, but it's certainly not the last. For too long, Africa was treated like an afterthought by much of the world. Many focused on its problems; few saw its opportunities. But no longer. We are clearly, clearly seeing Ethiopia's potential and Africa's potential. And today I'm proud to announce that Israel is coming back to Africa in a big way.
We had extraordinarily productive discussions, the Prime Minister and I and our teams. We see possibilities in every field of endeavor – in agriculture, in water, in energy, in space, in cyber, but in ways that will affect, as the Prime Minister said, the lives of ordinary Ethiopians because you can have more water for your personal use, for crops. If you can make your crops more productive, if you can grow animals to produce – and cows – to produce cows, to produce milk in greater quantities.
This is the question I ask everywhere I go: Which cow produces more milk per cow in the world? You think it's a Dutch cow; you think it's a French cow. It's not; it's an Israeli cow and soon it could be an Ethiopian cow.
This is my vision for our cooperation: to have Ethiopian farmers enjoy the benefits of Israeli know-how, working together with us; to have water channeled to every direction that you want and wasted very little; to have technology; to have communications, education, medicine. Enjoy the fruits of technology, because the future belongs to those who innovate. Israel is an innovation nation, but we are willing and eager to share our experience with you, because we believe in our partnership.
I believe that Ethiopia is on the rise. We believe that your industries are grown and innovative, your influence is spreading. We seek to deepen our ties with you, because when we work together, both of our peoples are better off.
It's been nearly three decades since an Israeli prime minister has visited any country in sub-Saharan Africa, and I can promise you it won't be another three decades before another visits. We are talking about future visits to Ethiopia and to many African countries. I want to see Israeli embassies spread throughout the continent, and I want to see every African country represented in an embassy in Israel. This is a vision that we believe in. It's something that we're working for. It's something that we believe in and it should not surprise you.
The founder of our state, of our modern state, was a young man. He was 36 years old when he began and he died very early, at 44. His name was Theodore Herzl, and Herzl was a modern Moses. He said over 120 years ago, he said that after he would achieve the establishment of a reborn Jewish state, he hoped to help the black people of Africa gain their freedom too. It was that same partnership from King Solomon, that same partnership from long ago, the same idea of the exodus. And Herzl said of the idea of re-founding a Jewish state, he said, "If you will it, it is no dream." And the same applies to our relations with Africa and the same applies to our vision of a shared future with Ethiopia.
If we will this future, it is no dream. Inspired by the bonds of history, by the values and common interests that characterize us, our friendship is ever deepening. Ethiopia is on the rise; Africa is on the rise; and the friendship between us is soaring to new heights.
May God bless Ethiopia. May God bless Israel. May God forever bless our friendship. Thank you all. Thank you very much."
PM Netanyahu addressing the Ethiopian parliament. Photo: GPO/Kobi Gideon