Saturday, July 9, 2016
The sole Ethiopia-born member of Israel’s parliament has said that he was left “disappointed” by Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to the Horn of Africa country, after the Israeli prime minister failed to solidify plans to reunite 9,000 Ethiopian Jews with their families in Israel
Avraham Neguise, a member of the Israeli Knesset from Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party, also said that he did not understand why the prime minister had not visited Jewish institutions or met with members of Ethiopia’s Jewish community, who are believed to have lived in the country for 3,000 years and are known as Beta Israel. Neguise had waited in the Israeli delegation’s hotel along with two local Jewish leaders in the hope of meeting Netanyahu, but the Israeli leader had already departed for talks with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and President Mulatu Teshome. The aliyah—emigration or return to Israel—of Ethiopian Jews was formally begun in 1991 with Israel’s Operation Solomon, which brought thousands of Jews to Israel in a matter of days as Ethiopia’s government was overthrown by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), which has been in power ever since. Some 135,000 Ethiopian Jews now live in Israel, and Netanyahu’s government approved the immigration of 9,000 more in November 2015, who have been separated from their families by the previous waves of aliyah. Ethiopian Jews have complained of institutionalized discrimination in Israel. After stalling on the returns process, the government pledged to bring 1,300 Ethiopians to Israel by the end of 2016, partly as a result of pressure from Neguise and another Likud lawmaker, David Amsalem. But the process is yet to begin and Neguise, who came to Israel from Ethiopia in 1985, has urged Netanyahu to honor the commitment. “These people who are waiting here, 85% of them have first-degree family members in Israel… So why are they just neglecting the issue?” said Neguise. Netanyahu’s office has said that they are committed to the reunification process but refused to say why it has not begun.