Forty-six years later, Chad picks Israel over Libya

For decades Israel, because of its own scarcity of water, has expended much time, energy and money into figuring out how to optimize the little water it has, and in creating more.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Chad President  Idriss Déby in Jerusalem in November 25, 2018 (photo credit: AMOS BEN GERSHOM, GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Chad President Idriss Déby in Jerusalem in November 25, 2018
(photo credit: AMOS BEN GERSHOM, GPO)
Chad's President Idriss Déby did not come to Israel on Sunday – after a lapse of 46 years in ties between the two countries – because he suddenly saw the light of the Zionist idea.
Déby came here, after two years of under-the-radar talks with senior Israeli officials, because he realizes that Israel can be important for his country’s security and prosperity.
This is the same reason that Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Said openly invited Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to his kingdom last month, and why other Arab states are beginning to publicly play footsie with the Jewish state: interests.
One need not be Henry Kissinger or Otto von Bismarck to understand that interests grease the engine that drives relations between countries. Netanyahu’s diplomatic success has been to steer Israel – it’s economy, its military, it’s research – into developing areas of expertise that other countries need.
If the prime minister has a diplomatic doctrine, this is it: Make Israel necessary to other countries around the world, make them want to do business with you and need to benefit from your knowledge and information – even if there is no peace agreement with the Palestinians.
In all honesty, that Israel now has what others need is not all Netanyahu. In fact, most of it is not Netanyahu.
For decades Israel, because of its own scarcity of water, has expended much time, energy and money into figuring out how to optimize the little water it has, and in creating more.
For decades it has been a pioneer in agriculture. For decades Israel developed expertise in how to fight terrorists, and how to gather information on them, because of a need to keep its own people safe.
And since the early ‘90s – thanks to military needs, massive immigration from the former Soviet Union, and good government decisions regarding how to promote research and development – the nation has become a leader in innovation.
Moreover, Israel discovered large natural gas fields in the same year that Netanyahu came to power in 2009.
Netanyahu did not create any of the above, but he has skillfully leveraged all of that in his ties with other countries – including African ones. One area in which he deserves credit for having the foresight to turn Israel into a superpower is cybersecurity.
What this all means is that the country – which a generation ago only had Jaffa oranges and the Uzi submachine gun to offer the world – today has much more. Indeed, it has what the world needs: expertise on how to optimize water and agricultural resources, expertise on how to secure border and ports and cyberlinks, and intelligence that is second to none.
One of Netanyahu’s favorite talking points in speeches and briefings is how Israel’s military power, coupled with its economic and technological power, has given birth to diplomatic power. The equation is simple: If you have something that other countries need, those countries will want to deal with you, even if they neither agree with you nor even like you.
Chad, a country in the Sahara south of Libya, is facing a cocktail of problems that Israel can help deal with, ranging from water scarcity to finding itself on the front lines in Africa’s fight against Islamic radicals, be they from Islamic State, al-Qaeda or Boko Haram.
Which is why Déby arrived in Jerusalem on Sunday, 46 years after then-Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi pressured Chad to break off diplomatic ties with Israel. That break came even before the big wave of African countries severed diplomatic ties with Israel under Arab oil pressure after the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
Chad’s decision in 1972 came with the central African country believing it could gain more from good ties with Gaddafi’s Libya than with Israel. Déby’s visit on Sunday shows just how much that calculation has been radically turned on its head over the last nearly half-century.


Tags Oman Chad