Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visiting Chad..
(photo credit: KOBI GIDON / GPO)
N’DJAMENA, Chad – While Iran and the Palestinians tried to stop the reestablishment of ties between Israel and Chad, other Arab countries actually encouraged the move, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday before boarding his plane back to Israel from the landlocked African country.
Netanyahu said that the Arab world is helping Israel make inroads into non-Arab Muslim countries. Paradoxically, he pointed out, some of those countries are looking to Israel to help in their relationships not only with the US, but also with Arab countries.
Netanyahu made these comments during a briefing with reporters accompanying him to Chad, but would not give details about which countries he was referring to.
“The breakthroughs with the Arab world help us in the Muslim world,” he said. “And also, the Muslims want our help in dealing with the Arab states.”
Netanyahu said that the reestablishment of ties with Chad is not something that happened all of a sudden, but has been in the works for a long time, taking the work of both the Mossad and the foreign Ministry to bring about.
Netanyahu related to his relationship with Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, and said they speak about once every two weeks.
Among the issues that came up in his meeting with Chadian President Idris Déby was whether there is a possibility of a third country taking in Israel’s African refugees. Beyond saying that the issue came up, Netanyahu gave no details and would not indicate whether Chad would be willing to serve as a sanctuary for the refugees, or would assist in finding another country to be one.
Israel is making inroads into the Muslim world, Netanyahu said on Sunday at the presidential palace in N’Djamena, before signing documents with Déby, formally re-establishing ties between the two countries.
“We are making history,” Netanyahu said of the reestablishment of ties with what he called a “giant” country in Africa. “We are turning Israel into a rising world power. There are those who tried to prevent this, but without success” – a reference to Iranian and Palestinian efforts to stop Chad from establishing ties with Israel.
“It is significant for us that Chad is a country with a Muslim majority that seeks friendship with Israel,” Netanyahu said. “There are other such countries, but in Africa this is particularly significant,” he added.
Referring to the struggle being waged in this region of Africa with extremist Islamic radicals, and noting the terrorist attack last week in Kenya, Netanyahu said that the future of Africa depends on the future of the Sahel.
“What happens here can affect the entire world,” he said, adding that Israel and Chad will now work together to impress the importance of the struggle on other critical allies around the world.
Netanyahu called Chad a very important country for Israel and said that there is much they can do to cooperate in a wide range of fields, including security, water, health, technology and agriculture.
The prime minister – who said that both he and Déby like to read history – said that the Chadian president spoke to him about African prisoners of war in World War II who were murdered by the Nazis.
“This is a story that has to be told,” Netanyahu said. “You suffered because you were black; we suffered because we were Jews. We refuse to accept this fate and we raised ourselves from defeat to create a new future for ourselves and for each other.”
Déby, in his comments, spoke of the necessity for countries to join hands to fight terrorism. He said that Chad was fighting terrorism on its borders and is prepared to continue the struggle.
The president made clear that the re-establishment of ties with Israel would not come at the expense of support for the Palestinians, and Chad is in favor of negotiations between the two sides toward an overall solution.
The statements and the signing of the Declaration at the presidential palace came after a couple of hours of meetings, first between Netanyahu and Déby alone, and then with the wider staff including National Security adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, and the prime minister’s military attaché, Avi Bluth.