PM Netanyahu and Chad's President Idriss Deby. (Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO) (Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)
PM Netanyahu & Chad Pres. Deby

Israel scored a major diplomatic success when Chad’s president arrived in Israel for his first-ever visit to the Jewish state. 

By: Max Gelber, United with Israel

Israel and Chad renewed their diplomatic ties on Sunday, 46 years after they were cut off, as Chad’s President Idriss Deby met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

Chad, a central Africa nation, cut diplomatic ties with Jerusalem in 1972 after a decade of good relations and cooperation. Chad is a large and important Muslim-majority African country. No president of Chad has ever visited the state of Israel.

Chad and Israel have been quietly discussing the renewal of diplomatic relations for the past four months, media reports said earlier this month.

Speaking at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday and prior to the meeting with Deby, Netanyahu stated that “there will be a historic visit here today. In a few hours, I will meet here with the President of Chad.”

Netanyahu revealed that he met Deby earlier this month at the lunch for leaders held in Paris to mark 100 years since the end of World War I.

“This visit reflects the rising status of Israel among the nations. I reiterate this time and again. Every week we see the implementation of this concept, of cultivating economic-technological strength, alongside security-intelligence strength, to receive political-diplomatic strength. This is happening before our eyes, one might say, on a daily basis,” he stated.

As Israel is turning a new page in its relations with Chad, “there will yet be other countries soon,” Netanyahu pledged.

Later in the day, Netanyahu welcomed Deby at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem.

Deby was accompanied by Foreign Minister Cherif Mahamat Zenet, Economy Minister Issa Doubragne, Head of the Presidential Cabinet for Civil Affairs Brahim Mahamat Djmaldine, President Deby’s Defense and Security Adviser Djiddi Saleh Kedellaye, and other senior officials.

In his remarks to the press after the two leaders met, Netanyahu stated that he is “delighted” that the two countries are “resuming our friendship.”

“We never fully stopped our contacts as we spoke now but we are now expanding them at a very rapid rate,” the Israeli premier stated.

Netanyahu expressed hope that the two countries will expand their collaboration to “all areas.”

“First of all in fighting terrorism, which is a common goal of all countries. Give our peoples what they deserve: security, food, water, clean water, health, medicine, all the things that our cooperation can produce for the benefit of both our countries,” he stated.

He noted that Israel was cooperating in this fashion with African countries in the 1960s and early 70s, especially in agriculture and water. “This was discontinued and now it’s flourishing back again,” he declared.

Which Country is Next?

Expressing hope to visit central Africa in the near future while bringing with him Israeli entrepreneurs, experts, and companies, “everything that can improve the life of the peoples of Africa, which is something we believe in,” Netanyahu repeated his slogan that “Israel is coming back to Africa, Africa is coming back to Israel.”

Referring to Israel’s evolving status in the Arab and Muslim world, exemplified by his visit to Oman with Sultan Qaboos last month, Netanyahu said “there will be more such visits in Arab countries very soon.”

Israeli media estimates that Israel is on the way to establish ties with Sudan in Africa, currently in a state of warfare with Israel, and with the Gulf state of Bahrain.

“As a leader of an African country, an important African country, a majority of whose population is Muslim, you are coming to Israel to renew our friendship and our relationship. I think it is a testament of what is going to happen with other such countries in Africa as well, and I believe that you are paving the way for many others,” he stated.

Deby said that while he’s eager to renew “very strong” diplomatic ties with Israel, such a boosting of ties does “not obscure the principle on the Palestinian question.”

“So in this spirit of friendship, renewed friendship, I want to welcome you to Israel and I want to tell you that we look forward to continuing our conversations this evening, tomorrow and in the coming years,” Netanyahu concluded.

Tide of Renewed Relations with Africa

Chad is just the latest of several African countries to examine and renew diplomatic ties with the Jewish state.

The tide of Israel’s renewed relations with Africa comes on the heels of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s historic visit to the four African countries of Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Kenya in July 2016, the first such visit by an Israeli premier in decades.

The latest African country to restore diplomatic relations with Israel was the Republic of Guinea, which did so after almost five decades of a cessation in the relations with the Jewish state.

In the last two years, Netanyahu has been to Africa three times, meeting with presidents of Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Rwanda, Togo, Botswana Kenya and Namibia, as well as the Ethiopian prime minister and other leaders.

In August 2017, Senegal and Guinea, two Muslim-majority West African nations, sent their first-ever full-time ambassadors to Israel.

Israel will open an embassy in the central African state of Rwanda in 2019. The new embassy will be located in the capital, Kigali.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made improving relations with African nations a priority.

In his address to AIPAC in March 2016, Netanyahu observed that Israel has “diplomatic relations with 161 countries, more than at any time in our history.”

Israel has a long history of sharing its expertise with African countries, and Jerusalem hopes that stronger ties will lead to a shift in voting trends at the UN and other global forums, thus reversing what Netanyahu has labeled the “automatic majority against Israel.”

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