Chad begins Israeli Africa revival
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.
Idiss Deby at Yad Vashem this week