Chad begins Is­raeli Africa re­vival

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY ANSHEL PFEFFER

BEN­JAMIN NE­TANYAHU will soon re­cip­ro­cate a visit to Is­rael by Chad’s Pres­i­dent Idiss Deby, amid signs the two coun­tries are on the verge reestab­lish­ing diplo­matic ties.

Mr Deby’s trip to Jerusalem was not an­nounced ahead of time but came after mul­ti­ple re­ports in re­cent months of closer ties, which were for­mally sev­ered in 1972.

Many African na­tions broke off their re­la­tions with Is­rael in the early 1970s as a re­sult of Arab pres­sure. But over the last two decades, most have re­sumed dis­creet ties.

Is­rael has se­cretly been sell­ing arms and co­op­er­at­ing with Chad in other ways since the early 1980s, but the Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity coun­try waited un­til now to bring the re­la­tions back out in to the open.

The Cha­dian visit is part of a wider en­gage­ment of Mid­dle Eastern and African na­tions with Is­rael, in­clud­ing last month’s visit by Mr Ne­tanyahu to Oman, the first open visit by an Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter to the Gulf in over twenty years.

There are also in­creas­ing re­ports of se­cret diplo­matic talks with coun­tries such as Su­dan and Bahrain.

Last Thurs­day, Oman’s For­eign Min­is­ter Sayyid Al-Bu­saidi said at a con­fer­ence that the Arab world needed to “come to terms with the re­al­ity that Is­rael is a fact of life in the re­gion”.

The thaw in Is­rael’s re­la­tions with th­ese coun­tries is con­nected with a much wider geopo­lit­i­cal shift.

In Chad’s case, the main fac­tor in cut­ting off diplo­matic re­la­tions was the in­flu­ence of its neigh­bour Libya, un­der for­mer dic­ta­tor Muam­mar Gadaffi.

Su­dan, a stage for the re­gional power strug­gle be­tween Iran and Saudi Ara­bia, has been a route for arms be­ing smug­gled by Iran to its al­lies in Gaza and Le­banon. But two years ago, Khar­toum an­nounced it was break­ing off re­la­tions with Tehran, a step that was in­ter­preted as the re­sult of Saudi fi­nan­cial aid.

There have also been ef­forts along with Is­rael to open up av­enues in Wash­ing­ton for Su­dan’s Pres­i­dent Omar al-Bashir, who since 2009 has faced an ar­rest war­rant of the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court over his al­leged in­volve­ment in war crimes in Dar­fur.

PHOTO: GETTY IM­AGES

Idiss Deby at Yad Vashem this week

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