On video: the president of Chad votes in the elections, a few days before he was killed by rebels (Photo: Reuters)
The interim president of Chad, Mohamed Debi, arrived in Jerusalem today (Wednesday) and in a move to further warm up relations, he announced at the end of a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the opening of an embassy in Israel.
Netanyahu and the leader of Chad, today (Photo: Government Press Office)
why is it important
Israel and Chad renewed diplomatic relations between them in January 2019. However, after the previous president Idriss Debi, who ruled the country for 30 years and is the father of the current president, was killed in mysterious circumstances in April 2021, relations between the countries cooled again.
The renewal of relations with Israel was the legacy of the previous president Idriss Debi.
He even visited Jerusalem in November 2018. However, Israeli officials say that his son, who took over the country after his death, took a much more cautious approach when it comes to relations with Israel.
Chad, a country with a Muslim majority in Central Africa, severed ties with Israel in 1972 following heavy pressure from Libya.
Senior Israeli officials saw the renewal of relations with Chad as one of the moves that created the regional atmosphere that led to the Abraham Accords 18 months later.
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The big picture
Since April 2021, Mohamed Dabi has ruled Chad as head of the Provisional Military Council.
In October of last year, as a result of the national dialogue in Chad, Dabi was appointed interim president for two years until elections are held.
Behind the Scenes
Debi's visit to Israel was organized by the Mossad and kept a low profile until his landing early Wednesday morning. The existence of the visit was first published by journalist Gili Cohen in "Kaan".
Senior Israeli officials said that since the death of the previous president in April 2021, the Mossad took responsibility for managing the sensitive contacts with Chad and the new president to prevent the collapse of the new relationship.
In the summer of 2021, the Mossad brought Abdel-Karim Debi, the president's brother and right-hand man, on a secret visit to Jerusalem.
During the visit, he met with then Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, according to senior Israeli officials.
In the last year, the institution has had intensive contacts with the two brothers.
"The relationship was dying and needed resuscitation and the Mossad was able to do it," said an Israeli senior official.
In May 2022, Israel's ambassador to Senegal, Ben Burgal, who is also responsible for relations with Chad, submitted his charter to the President of Dubai.
Senior Israeli officials said that this was an important step to preserve relations.
"When Mohammed Gabi became the new ruler of Chad, he saw relations with Israel as more of a burden than an asset and the Mossad worked hard to convince him to warm the ties," said an Israeli official.
After the establishment of the new government, the head of the Mossad, David Barnea, invited President Debi to visit Israel and meet with Netanyahu, who returned to the position of Prime Minister.
Senior Israeli officials said that two weeks ago Barnea secretly flew to Ndjamena, the capital of Chad, met President Debi and his brother and finalized the final details of the visit.
Senior Israeli officials said that the visit was kept low-profile for fear that countries such as Algeria would put pressure on Gabi to cancel his visit to Israel.
Senior Israeli officials hope that the renewed momentum in relations with Chad will provide a basis for other Arab and Muslim countries in the region such as Sudan and Niger to complete the normalization process with Israel or enter into such a process.
Netanyahu: "We will upgrade relations to new levels"
Prime Minister Netanyahu praised Dabi for his statement and welcomed his visit to the country: "Israel and Chad established relations, between our two countries, together with your late father. We see these relations as extremely important - with a great country in the heart of Africa," Netanyahu said.
"These are relations that we want to upgrade to new levels, to new heights - and your visit here in Israel and the opening of the embassy are an expression of that."
"We believe that the cooperation between us can help advance not only our relations and cooperation, but is also part of Israel's return to Africa and Africa's return to Israel," the Prime Minister added.
"We have common goals of security, prosperity and stability. I look forward to discussing all these things with you for the benefit of our peoples and our countries."
In a meeting held last night by the head of the Mossad, Dadi Barnea, at the organization's headquarters, he told the President of Chad that "expanding the circle of political partnerships is an important goal for expanding the strategic depth of the State of Israel."
He expressed hope that other leaders in the Middle East and Africa "will draw inspiration from this important agreement, and advance their relations with Israel. The Mossad will continue to work in every way to develop and promote relations with every country and entity with which the State of Israel has an interest in pursuing an agreement and peace."