The president of Chad has presented Israel with a laundry list of demands, including significant arms sales, as a condition for renewing ties, according to a report Wednesday.
Idriss Déby’s visit to Israel this week was hailed as a historic opening between Jerusalem and the majority-Muslim African nation, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu planning a reciprocal trip in the near future to officially re-establish ties.
Senior Foreign Ministry officials were quoted as saying that Chadian President Déby presented Israel with a “very extensive” list of demands, which has caused concerns about the diplomatic opening, Israel’s Channel 10 reported.
According to the officials, the demands focused on weapons acquisition and security cooperation.
Déby and his entourage were “extremely aggressive” about their demands, and hinted they could condition the resumption of diplomatic ties — which were severed in 1972 — on them being met.
Netanyahu and National Security Adviser Meir Ben Shabbat have yet to respond to the demands, which will be discussed in internal deliberations as well as in talks with Chad in the coming weeks, ahead of the prime minister’s planned reciprocal visit.
According to the report, the breadth of the demands and the approach of the Chadian delegation led to a dispute between Ben Shabbat and Foreign Ministry Director General Yuval Rotem, who lobbied for Déby’s visit to be conditioned on the immediate resumption of bilateral ties.
Last week, Déby became the first president of his country to visit Israel and pledged a new era of relations when meeting Netanyahu, 46 years after ties were severed.
Though both Netanyahu and Déby both declined to say if their talks included potential arms deals, Chadian government sources told Reuters the visit was “focused on security,” and that Israel had recently supplied the Chadian army with weaponry and other equipment to help in its fight against the country’s northern rebels.
Chad is also one of several African states engaged in Western-backed operations against Boko Haram and Islamic State jihadists in West Africa. Earlier this month, the United States donated military vehicles and boats worth $1.3 million to Chad as part of the campaign against Islamist insurgency.
During the historic visit, Meretz party leader Tamar Zandberg demanded Netanyahu reveal if their talks included negotiations on Israeli arms sales to the African country, citing human rights concerns.
In a statement, Zandberg said there was concern Déby’s visit would be used to broker “secret arms deals in which Israeli arms will be sold to persecute political opponents, human rights activists and journalists.”
Israel has been accused of selling weapons and military services to human rights violators around the world for decades, including to apartheid South Africa, Rwanda during the 1994 genocide and in recent years to South Sudan, despite a near-universal arms embargo over the bloody civil war there.
Most recently, Israel has been accused of supplying Myanmar with “advanced weapons” during the country’s ethnic cleansing campaign against its Rohingya Muslims. The Foreign Ministry admitted last year to selling Myanmar weapons in the past, but said that it had frozen all contracts earlier in 2017.
The extent of Israeli arms sales has been largely unknown as those transactions have largely remain sealed — due to national security concerns, the government maintains — despite attempts by activists to have them released to the public.
Israel’s defense exports are regulated according to a 2007 law that requires defense contractors to consider what and where the Israeli weapons will be used for. The law is designed to prevent companies from knowingly selling weapons to countries that intend to use them to commit atrocities.
While the contractors are legally required to take potential human rights violations into consideration under the law, it can be overruled out of diplomatic or security concerns.
Currently, Israeli law only prevents the sale of weapons to countries that are under an official embargo from the UN Security Council. However, such embargoes rarely happen, generally because of vetoes by China and Russia.