Пeneral Dore Gold visited Chad last week as part of Israel’s push to establish ties with that majority Muslim African State, which is on the front line of the battle against Islamic extremists.
“Chad is a central state on the African continent. It is a Muslim nation that speaks Arabic and which is struggling against radical Islamic terrorism,” the Foreign Ministry said on Friday as it spoke about Gold’s trip.
It noted that Chad’s president was the chairman of the African Union. Israel wants the African Union to grant it “observer status.” While in Chad Gold met with the country’s President Idriss Deby Itno at his palace in the Sahara desert.
The meeting comes on the heels of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to four African countries earlier this month. Netanyahu believes it is very important to improve Israel’s ties with Africa, the Foreign Ministry said.
On Wednesday, Guinea and Israel announced the reestablishment of ties. Netanyahu said that another African country would soon follow suit.
The Post reported earlier this month that delegations from Chad and Mali, both in sub-Saharan Africa, were in Israel recently. Like Guinea, Chad is also a member of the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
Chad severed ties with Israel in 1972 after coming under intense pressure from its Arab neighbors, Libya and Sudan. But it recognized Palestine as a state already in 1988.
Renewal of ties with Chad is of particular importance for Israel, since the Lake Chad basin is “ground zero” in the fight against radical Islam in Africa, as Brig.-Gen Donald C. Bolduc, the commander of the US military’s special operations in Africa, called the country recently in The New York Times.
In April, an arms shipment believed to be from Islamic State fighters in Libya was confiscated near the Libya-Chad border. It was headed for the Lake Chad area, apparently intended for Boko Haram, raising concerns that the two terrorist organizations were now cooperating closely. Boko Haram is active in Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad.
Diplomatic officials said that a major impetus for the surge in African interest in better ties with Israel has to do with a desire to tap into its expertise regarding how to combat radical Islamist terrorism. These countries, many of them facing significant terrorist threats, are interested in receiving counter-terrorist training from Israel for their elite military units, as well as access to Israeli intelligence and technology.
In addition, one senior official said, 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.
Both Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta and Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said as much publicly during press conferences with Netanyahu when he visited their countries earlier this month.
It is obvious, the official said, that Israel and many of the African states now share a common enemy in Islamist extremism, and the African states are interested in benefiting from Israel’s experience dealing with it.
But while African countries seem to be warming up to Israel, Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki announced this week that the PA and Sudan were coordinating to “restrain Israeli movements” in Africa.
“President Mahmoud Abbas and his Sudanese counterpart, Omar al-Bashir, discussed developing a strategy for the African continent and coordinating to restrain Israeli attempts to make a breakthrough in Africa,” the PA foreign minister told a group of journalists in Khartoum.