A top official from Chad told the Israeli press Tuesday that his country would be willing to open a diplomatic mission in Jerusalem. The official was part of a senior Chadian delegation that arrived to Jerusalem at the invitation of Israel’s National Security Council. Headed by Chad’s cabinet chair Abdelkarim Deby, the delegation met yesterday and today with a series of Israeli top officials including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen and National Security Council chief Meir ben Shabbat.
A statement issued yesterday by Netanyahu’s office said that the premier and Deby “discussed the appointment of ambassadors and the opening of missions, including the possibility of opening an embassy in Jerusalem.” The office of Cohen issued a similar statement, saying, “At the request of Minister Cohen, Gen. Deby responded positively to advancing the establishment of an official representative office of Chad in Jerusalem.”
Ashkenazi tweeted Wednesday morning that he and Deby “discussed the window of opportunity that has opened in the Middle East for building bridges between the peoples and establishing diplomatic relations between the countries.”
Cohen went a bit further, tweeting about “an important meeting with Chad cabinet chief Gen. Abdelkarim Deby and the director of Chad’s National Security Agency, Gen. Ahmed Kogri.” He wrote, “We discussed strengthening cooperation in the fields of intelligence, security and economy, and about other good news to be published further down the road.”
However, a report late Tuesday, just hours after the Israeli announcements, cast doubt on the plans. Al Jazeera quoted Chad’s Foreign Ministry as saying, “We categorically deny any plan to open a diplomatic mission in Jerusalem.”
Chad severed its diplomatic ties with Israel in 1972. In 2018, Chadian President Idriss Deby visited Israel and met with Netanyahu, a trip that received large media coverage in both countries. Two months later, the two leaders met again; this time in the Chadian capital of N’Djamena. Israel and Chad agreed to renew diplomatic ties, with Netanyahu hailing “a breakthrough in the heart of the Muslim world.”
The renewal of ties with Chad did not immediately produce cooperation projects, though the Foreign Ministry is considering such programs. The Chadian regime is interested in Israel’s technological advancements in the fields of smart agriculture, water management and education. It is also interested — perhaps more than anything else — in Israel’s military industry.
According to foreign press reports, another delegation from Chad had visited Israel in July. The reports claimed that Mossad chief Yossi Cohen has visited N’Djamena on several occasions, that Kogri has visited Israel on several occasions and that these relations are backed and supported by the American administration.
Other Muslim countries in Africa have also expressed interest in establishing ties in Israel. Last February, while visiting Uganda, Netanyahu met with the head of the Sudanese Sovereignty Council, Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Burhan. And while the meeting did not lead to any official movement toward renewing diplomatic relations, it certainly warmed up contacts between the sides. Since then, Sudanese officials have released contradictory statements on the issue, which is apparently a source of disagreement between the military and the civil leaderships.
In another interesting development in Israel-Africa relations, Malawi announced over the weekend that it would open its first ever diplomatic mission in Israel, and that the mission would be placed in Jerusalem. Addressing the Malawi Parliament on reforming the country’s Foreign Ministry, President Lazarus Chakwera said, “The reforms will also include a review of our diplomatic presence, including our resolve to have new diplomatic missions in Lagos, Nigeria, and Jerusalem, Israel. I will be sharing more details about this in the near future.”