For the first time since the rebirth of the State of Israel in 1948, the President of Chad, Idriss Deby, arrived Sunday for a visit to Israel, clearly to renew his nation’s diplomatic ties with the Jewish State.
Deby met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his office in Jerusalem, and joined the prime minister for a working dinner in the evening as well.
Accompanying Chad President Deby were Foreign Minister Cherif Mahamat Zenet, Economy Minister Issa Doubragne, Head of the Presidential Cabinet for Civil Affairs Brahim Mahamat Djmaldine, President Deby’s Defense and Security Adviser Djiddi Saleh Kedellaye, and other senior officials.
President Reuven Rivlin also hosted his African counterpart at his official residence, during the late afternoon.
Deby has ruled Chad since 1990.
“This is an historic visit, the first by a President of Chad to Israel since the establishment of the state,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement, adding that the visit comes “against the background of the manifold diplomatic efforts led by Prime Minister Netanyahu in recent years.”
Israel currently has no formal diplomatic relations with the central African nation, which severed its ties with the Jewish State in 1972. About 55 percent of its 13.5 million citizens are Muslims; 40 percent are Christian.
“Chad is a very important country. It’s an important country in Africa. It’s an important country for Israel. And I’m delighted that we are resuming our friendship,” Netanyahu said in remarks to media at a joint news conference with Deby. “We never fully stopped our contacts as we spoke now but we are now expanding them at a very rapid rate.
“And we wish to do so in all areas. First of all in fighting terrorism, which is a common goal of all countries. 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. 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.
“In the last two years I’ve been, Mr. President as I told you, three times in Africa. East Africa and West Africa. Now I’m going to drop a big hint, I hope to come to the center of Africa. And I wish to bring with me Israeli entrepreneurs, Israeli experts, Israeli companies, everything that can improve the life of the peoples of Africa, which is something we believe in. Israel is coming back to Africa, Africa is coming back to Israel.
“But I want to congratulate you Mr. President, on your leadership and on your statesmanship because I think you recognize change and you lead change.
“A few minutes ago we discussed in my office the great changes that are taking place in the Arab world in its relations with Israel. And this was manifested in my recent visit in Oman with Sultan Qaboos.
“And there will be more such visits in Arab countries very soon,” Netanyahu promised.
“As a leader of an African country, an important African country, a majority of whose population is Muslim, you are coming to Israel to renew our friendship and our relationship. I think it is a testament of what is going to happen with other such countries in Africa as well, and I believe that you are paving the way for many others.
“So in this spirit of friendship, renewed friendship, I want to welcome you to Israel and I want to tell you that we look forward to continuing our conversations this evening, tomorrow and in the coming years.
Again, thank you. Thank you for this important step and welcome to Jerusalem.”
Two years ago, then-Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold also traveled to Chad while in office to meet with Deby in July 2016 at his presidential palace in the Sahara Desert city of Fada for talks as well.