Netanyahu Says He Discussed Israel's Refugees in Meeting With Chad's President

In first visit to Muslim-majority country by an Israeli PM, the two leaders also discuss Israel supporting Chad's fight against terrorism, landmines, and border protection. 'First step in normalization with the Arab world,' PM says

Noa Landau
Noa Landau
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu walks with Chad's President Idriss Deby, during their meeting in N'Djamena, Chad January 20, 2019.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu walks with Chad's President Idriss Deby, during their meeting in N'Djamena, Chad January 20, 2019.Credit: Reuters
Noa Landau
Noa Landau

N’DJAMENA - After the first visit by an Israeli prime minister to Chad and the formal renewal of relations, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters on Sunday that the visit "shows where Israel stands in the Arab world since if Arab countries objected, this visit would not take place."

The prime minister added that "unofficially, they even supported [this visit]." Netanyahu called the ties with Chad a first step in normalization with the Arab world.

According to Netanyahu, he discussed with Chad President Idriss Deby multiple issues, including Israel's refugees. Israel has tried deporting its asylum seekers, at least 35,000 people mostly from Eritrea and Sudan, and has attempted to close deals with Rwanda and Uganda to have them take them in return for various offerings.

By renewing ties with Chad, Israel is embracing an enabler of terrorism | Opinion

Netnayahu denied discussing with Deby the option that Chad would take in the refugees. When asked what they did discuss with regards to this population, Netanyahu said: "Use your imagination."

Netanyahu said that Israel is planning to support Chad in its struggle against terror, cross-border infiltration and against landmines that litter the border with Libya.

The premier added that in addition to the danger land mines pose for locals and foreigners, Nigeria's Boko Haram also take them and turn them into explosive devices.

"They face challenges and we'll help them in their fight against terror. They also want a connection to countries other than the U.S. There are many ways Israel can help, our condition is that they'll allow Israeli companies to work here as partners and Deby understands this," Netanyahu said.

There are two sources that are concerned about our entry into the Arab world, that's Iran and the Palestinians. Others are either passive or active supportive and this shows Israel's rising status in the Arab world and in Africa. He added that Iran and the Palestinians tried to block the renewal of ties with Chad but did not succeed.

"This is not the last visit, there will be others," the prime minister said, adding that the visit to Chad is the result of years of work and requests from the Mossad and others "to burst through the Arab and Muslim wall of resistance."

Israel and Chad renewed diplomatic ties on Sunday that were severed in 1972.

The prime minister called the diplomatic achievement "a result of strenuous work of recent years" and said that together, he and Deby were "making history."

Deby came to Israel in November and met with Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin. He said that “the cutting of diplomatic ties in the 1970s did not prevent good relations,” which continued all the same.

Netanyahu said at that press conference that he and Deby had talked about “changes in relations between Israel and the Arab world” and that he would be visiting some Arab countries “very soon.”

Chad is one of the 30 poorest nations in the world. Because of its location in north-central Africa it has been a destination for refugees from neighboring countries, especially Sudan and the Central African Republic.

Chad’s population of 15.8 million consists of numerous ethnic groups, with a Muslim majority of 52 percent. Sixty percent of Chad’s revenue is from oil exports and the rest is from agriculture.

Before Deby’s visit to Israel, sources in Chad told Reuters that he would focus on security issues – after Israel supplied Chad last year with weapons and equipment to fight rebels in the north of the country.

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