Ethiopian-born Israeli Members of the Knesset (MKs) have expressed their grief for the four Ethiopian officials killed on Saturday during two attacks that were masterminded by Amhara Security head General Asamnew Tsige in an effort to seize control of Amhara, where ethnic tensions have been increasing as the country undergoes unprecedented political and military reform. The attempted coup in Amhara is the latest challenge to Mr Abiy, who was elected last year as a reform-minded young leader.
Mr. Abiy has introduced a range of political and economic reforms, including the surprise acceptance of a peace agreement with longstanding rival Eritrea, the opening of major state-owned sectors to private investment, and the release of thousands of prisoners — including opposition figures once sentenced to death.
In June 2018, just months after he took office, Mr. Abiy was targeted in a grenade attack at a massive rally in support of the sweeping changes in Ethiopia. Nine police officials were arrested over that incident, state media reported. While the changes have won him widespread international praise, the premier's shake-up of the military and intelligence services has earned him powerful enemies at home with his government struggling to contain powerful figures in Ethiopia's myriad ethnic groups fighting the federal government and each other for greater influence and resources.
According to Phina Tamato-Shata, the first Ethiopian born woman elected to the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) and who immigrated to Isreal in 1984 during Operation Moses:
There [are] a lot of Ethiopians that admire Abiy Ahmed, who is trying to bring Ethiopia to a new period of time. It has not been easy for him. We are hoping that everything will be alright.”
The news has brought renewed urgency to the ongoing effort of facilitating the immigration of Ethiopian Jews to Israel. Gadi Yevarkan, an Ethiopian-born MK elected to the Knesset in April, said Israelis “who have family in Ethiopia are worried".
According to Yevarkan, the heightened tensions should warrant an analogous response as “every person that the Israeli government has deemed entitled to immigrate to Israel must be able to immigrate immediately.” Although confident of the correct approach, Yevarken noted his doubts adding, “I don’t know if I can say this will happen, but I know I am pushing for it to happen.”
Ethiopia has a special place for me, and therefore, everything that occurs there concerns me. What happened with the attempted coup is very hard, but I am sure that the Ethiopian nation will prevail over what happened yesterday. She has existed independently for more than 3,500 years, she has overcome difficult wars, more difficult than what has happened now, and therefore I am filled with hope and prayer that she will return to greatness,” said Yevarken.
Header Image Credit: Emergency Knesset meeting to address Ethiopian-Israeli community needs, May 12th (Sonia Epstein & TJP)