Opposition leaders and civil society groups in Chad denounced the central African country’s President Idriss Deby’s decision to visit Israel and his intention to establish diplomatic relations with it.
Political and civic leaders said Chad should not restore diplomatic ties with Israel as long as it continues to occupy Palestinian territories, and in absence of a collective decision by African states to establish relations.
Deby became the first leader of the majority Muslim nation to visit Israel in decades which, according to analysts, came as a crowning achievement of intelligence and military ties between the Deby’s government and Israel.
Al Jazeera’s Fadoul Abderazak, reporting form the capital N’Djamena, said the majority of Chad’s political establishment suspects that Deby’s motive behind restoring ties with Israel is to maintain control over the country using Israeli military and intelligence assistance.
Chad had severed its ties with Israel in 1972 after the Organization of African Unity, the predecessor of the current African Union, issued a decision to its member states to cut diplomatic ties with Israel in solidarity with the Palestinians.
Chad’s Alliance of Civil Associations for Jerusalem, a group of 22 civil organisations, issued a statement in condemning Deby’s visit to Israel.
“We strongly denounce the president’s visit to the Zionist entity,” the statement said.
“Through this statement we issue an apology on behalf of the people of Chad asserting that the president’s visit does not represent us as it will not change our people’s support for the Palestinian cause,” the statement added.
Opposition leader Mahamat-Ahmad Alhabo, head of the Freedom and Development party, opposed the rapprochement, saying that without African consensus Chad should not restore ties with Israel.
Alhabo said that Deby did not inform the people of Chad of his visit to Israel, adding that Chadians found out about it via Israeli media.
“Israel is only looking after its own interests and intends to use Chad as a Trojan horse through which it can use it as a forward base to establish ties with other African nations,” Alhabo added.
“Chad should only resume ties with Israel after it stops its aggression against the Palestinians and end its illegal occupation of Palestinian lands, especially the Muslim holy places in Jerusalem,” he said.
Israel’s prime minister’s office said in a statement on Tuesday that Netanyahu would soon visit Chad to officially establish diplomatic relations between the two countries.
But for Abu Bakr Yousef Zayed, a former deputy mayor of N’Djamena and member of the ruling party during the 70s, told Al Jazeera that Chad should not consider its religious or cultural background when debating its ties with Israel.
“Chad stands to benefit from having ties with Israel, especially since Israel has very advance military and intelligence capabilities,” he said.
Thembisa Fakude, a senior researcher at Al Jazeera Center of Studies and an expert on central Africa, said Israel is embarking on major efforts on the continent and is making notable inroads towards winning the support of African states, especially in East Africa.
Arab countries have neglected Africa and left it for Israel to reestablish its presence that was once the bedrock of support for Arab causes in the international arena, Kakuda said.
Fakude added that while African leaders stand to benefit from access to Israeli intelligence and military training, Israel, on the other hand, has its eyes on a larger strategic objective.
Israel aims to change the UN equation and legitimise its policies in the occupied Palestinian territories in the eyes of the world.
“The main objective for Israel’s push towards Africa is to increase its numbers when it comes to votes at UN organisations, such as the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council. African nations tend to support the Palestinians and condemn Israeli actions,” he said.
He argued that with Israel seeing through its efforts in Africa, the tally of UN votes will eventually change to show Israel as being more accepted by the international community.
“Israel aims to change the UN equation and legitimise its policies in the occupied Palestinian territories in the eyes of the world,” Fakude added.
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