Israel’s top diplomat met last week with the president of Chad, the latest African nation—many of them with Muslim majorities—to strengthen its ties with Israel in recent weeks.
Israeli Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold met with Chadian president Idriss Déby on July 14 at the presidential palace in Fada, the Israeli Foreign Ministry revealed Friday. The meeting represented “an important step in our relations with Chad,” spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon told The Times of Israel, although it did not mean that Chad had formally renewed diplomatic relations with the Jewish state.
Chad cut its ties with Israel in the 1970’s under pressure from neighboring Arab states Libya and Sudan. But now, as The Jerusalem Post observed, “Israel’s close security ties with Egypt and Jordan—as well as well-known but under-the-radar contacts with Saudi Arabia and Persian Gulf countries—have convinced many African countries that they no longer have to be worried about Arab pressure against developing ties with Israel, since the Arab states themselves have ties with Israel.” African countries are particularly interested in Israel’s capabilities in counter-terrorism, technology, agriculture, and water conservation. Chad has been fighting against the terrorist group Boko Haram, as well as periodic incursions from ISIS’s branch in Libya.
Israel has had many diplomatic breakthroughs in Africa in the past month. On Wednesday, it renewed its diplomatic ties with the Muslim-majority African nation of Guinea—which, like Chad, is a member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which does not recognize Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly held a secret meeting with the president of Somalia, a member of both the OIC and the Arab League, which has publicly refused to recognize Israel for decades. Netanyahu returned two weeks ago from a diplomatic trip to Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Rwanda, where the leaders of those countries jointly praised “the opening of a new era in relations between Israel and the countries of Africa” and pledged to work on granting Israel observer status in the African Union. “I want to see Israeli embassies spread throughout the continent, and I want to see every African country represented in an embassy in Israel,” Netanyahu said in an address to the Ethiopian parliament.
The president of the West African nation of Togo is scheduled to visit Israel next month. Netanyahu has expressed interest in holding a regional summit in western African in the near future, similar to the summit held in eastern Africa earlier in the month, which also included Tanzania, Zambia, and South Sudan.
This infographic covers Israel’s recent diplomatic inroads in Africa:
Kenyan Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed said in February that most African countries “see Israel as a very close friend,” and predicted that Netanyahu’s visit to Africa would help bolster ties with nations on the continent.
In an effort to counter Israel’s engagement with African nations, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met with (and hugged) Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide.
[ Photo: Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs ]