Diplomacy

President of Chad Meets Netanyahu, as Israel Reaches Out Diplomatically to Muslim World

In a further sign of Israel’s growing ties around the world, the President of Chad, Idriss Déby, embarked on a historic visit to Israel on Sunday, the first such visit by a leader of the Muslim-majority African state which severed bilateral ties in 1972, The Times of Israel reported.

In a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Chadian leader said that he was interested in renewed diplomatic relations with Israel and stressed that “all options are open” for cooperation with the Jewish State. The two leaders discussed common security threats, such as the fight against terrorism and Islamic extremism.

Israel does not have official diplomatic relations with the Arabic-speaking, Muslim-majority country, but the visit is part of a wider effort to forge ties with other nations in the region. These include Sudan, which joined Saudi Arabia and Bahrain in cutting diplomatic ties with Iran in early 2016, as well as other central African Muslim states such as Niger and Mali.

At the outset of his meeting with Deby, the Israeli Prime Minister observed that he wold “make additional visits to Arab countries in the near future,” and pointed out that he had traveled to Africa three times in two years. “I was in West Africa and in East Africa. I hope to also go to Central Africa and bring Israeli entrepreneurs and companies with me that can help improve life for people in Africa. Israel is returning to Africa, and Africa is returning to Israel,” Netanyahu said.

The Israeli leader made a secret trip to Oman last month, in the clearest sign yet of the warming ties between Israel and the Gulf Arab states. A day after Netanyahu’s visit, Oman publicly called for regional recognition of Israel. Last week, Oman’s Foreign Affairs Ministry Secretary-General, Sayyid Badr bin Hamad al-Busaidi, reinforced the message, saying, “The Arab states need to come to terms with the reality that Israel is a fact of life in the region and as such it should share the rights as well as obligations.”

Also, recently, Israeli Transport Minister, Yisrael Katz, attended the World Congress of the International Road Transport Union in Oman and presented plans for a railway linking Israel to the Persian Gulf.

It is believed that another one of the Gulf states is involved in Israel’s efforts to deepen ties across the region. Media reports suggest Bahrain will be next, joining the United Arab Emirates and Oman. This follows a statement by the Arabic-media spokesperson for the Prime Minister, who revealed on Friday that Netanyahu will be visiting Bahrain “soon,” adding, “This visit is only a prelude for something bigger, for another Middle East.”

In addition, Israel’s Minister of the Economy and Industry, Eli Cohen, was invited to Bahrain to participate in an international conference. Earlier this year, Bahrain had officially supported Israel’s right to defend itself against Iranian aggression.

Israel enjoys unprecedented cooperation with the Arab Muslim world in light of shared security interests and tectonic shifts in the region, Joshua S. Block, CEO and President of The Israel Project, wrote in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal on November 4. Block noted that these developments “will change the region for the better.”

[Photo: IsraeliPM / YouTube ]