Benjamin Netanyahu spent less that eight hours on the ground in N’Djamena on Sunday, but that was all he needed to announce the resumption of diplomatic relations with the African Muslim nation of Chad, 46 years after it bowed to Arab pressure and severed official ties with Israel in 1972.
His visit reciprocated one made to Jerusalem last month by President Idriss Deby. It leaves Mali and the next African country expected to renew ties with Israel.
While a large number of African nations cut off ties with Israel in the early 1970s — part of a campaign at the time by the Arab League to diplomatically isolate the Jewish State — many of them have had quiet relations with Israel for many years.
President Deby hinted at that during the visit when he said in his greeting remarks to Mr Netanyahu that “the fact we did not have diplomatic relations since 1972 did not prevent us cooperating.”
He was referring to decades of arms sales from Israel and more recently to cooperation in fighting Al Qaida and Isis affiliates in Africa. Both Chad and Mali are facing radical Muslim insurgents in their countries. On Monday, 10 Chadian United Nations peacekeepers were killed in northern Mali in an al Qaida attack protesting Mr Netanyahu’s visit.
Government sources in Bamako, Mali’s capital, did not deny the talks on renewing ties. Mr Netanyahu met Mali’s president Ibrahim Keita at a summit in 2017 and visits are being planned in both capitals.
Mr Netanyahu, who has put an emphasis in recent years in broadening Israel’s engagement with African countries, has limited his globetrotting in recent months due to the election campaign and his new responsibilities as defence minister. He cancelled his planned participation at the Davos World Economic Forum in Switzerland this, but aides are anxious to schedule at least one more trip to Africa before the election on April 9.