In further evidence that Israel’s charm offensive with Gulf States and majority-Muslim African states may be bearing fruit, Chad’s President Idriss Deby is currently visiting the country – the first such visit since the establishment of the state. It comes against the backdrop of intense Israeli efforts led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in recent years. (Relations between the two countries were severed in 1972).
Netanyahu said that Chad was an important country, both within an African context and as a partner for Israel. He added that he was delighted there was a resumption of friendly ties between the two countries and that although diplomatic relations were cut, contact between the states never fully ceased.
The prime minister quickly turned his attention to the scourge of the Middle East and Africa; terrorism. “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,” urged Netanyahu. “Israel, in fact, was cooperating in this fashion with the countries of Africa in the 1960s and early 70s, especially in agriculture and water. This was discontinued and now it’s flourishing back again,” he added.
Deby responded dialogue and communication were the basis for everything.
“We need to put the differences and disagreements aside in order to talk for the good of the peoples,” he said, adding that Israel and Chad “have a common struggle in this century that is marred with terrorism.
“Humanity must get rid of this thing, cooperation in this sense is a cure for this,” he said. “I am happy to be in your beautiful country on an official visit,” he maintained.
Chad and its 250,000-strong army are at the forefront of the war against al-Qaeda and ISIS, battling Islamists on three fronts:
- Southern Libya, mainly in the oil-rich Fasen region from which a network of pipelines carries Libyan oil to its Mediterranean export ports.
- As the backbone of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF), through which Nigeria, Chad, the Central African Republic and others are fighting Boko Haram. On this front, Chad troops have US military backing.
- The Chad army is also part of another organization dedicated to combating Islamist incursions: The Joint Force of the G5 Sahel (Force Conjointe du G5 Sahel) J5S, which is battling Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM) in the Sahel desert.
Netanyahu also remarked that he has been on several visits to Africa in the recent past, in addition to his overtures to Oman and a strong hint that he will also shortly attempt to establish closer ties with Bahrain.