Israel wins Ethiopian support for African Union ‘observer’ role

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s push for Israel to be granted “observer status” at the African Union gained the backing of continental heavyweight Ethiopia on Thursday.

“Israel is working very hard in many African countries. There is no reason to deny this observer position to Israel,” said Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn as Netanyahu began the last leg of this week’s four-nation Africa tour.

The position of observer is granted to some non-African countries who wish to engage with the AU, follow proceedings and address its gatherings. Israel had been an observer at the AU’s predecessor organization but its status was not renewed at the AU’s founding in 2002.

The 54-member organisation, headquartered in Addis Ababa, would be an important diplomatic ally for Israel, as is Ethiopia which begins a two-year tenure as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in 2017.

Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas has used his country’s AU observer status since 2013 to attend AU summits, spread anti-Israel propaganda and shore up diplomatic support in his attacks on the State of Israel.

“All African countries can benefit from renewed cooperation with Israel,” Netanyahu said in Addis Ababa, “Israel is coming back to Africa.”