Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to fly to Chad on Saturday night to announce the renewal of diplomatic ties with the African Muslim-majority nation.
During his one-day trip on Sunday to N’Djamena, the country’s capital city, Netanyahu will meet Chad’s President Idriss Déby for a meeting and a formal declaration by the two leaders on the reestablishment of diplomatic relations, which were severed 47 years ago.
In November, Déby made a surprise visit to Israel, during which he said he was interested in restoring full diplomatic ties. As he left the country after a three-day trip, during which he also visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, Netanyahu promised to fly to the country’s capital “soon” for the formal reestablishment of ties.
“The relations between our countries were cut in 1972 for specific historic reasons, but our special relations continued all the time,” Déby, who has ruled Chad since 1990, said at the time.
Israel and Chadian leaders have acknowledged that clandestine contacts continued even after relations were severed.
“The current visit to your beautiful country expresses our desire to take the relations that existed all the time and make them stronger,” Déby said.
“The resumption of diplomatic relations with your country, which I desire, does not make us ignore the Palestinian issue,” Déby continued. “My country is profoundly attached to the peace process and has shaped the Arab peace initiative, the Madrid principles and existing agreements.”
Chad is located in a potentially strategically important place for Israel, as it could enable Israeli aircraft to shave off several hours in flight routes to Latin America (though for this to happen Israel would also need to get overfly rights from Sudan, which does not appear imminent).
The Republic of Chad cut diplomatic ties with Jerusalem in 1972. Nearly 15 million people live in Chad today, 55 percent of whom are Muslim. About 40% are Christian.
Netanyahu has traveled three times to Africa in the last two years, visiting Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Liberia.
He regularly vows to expand ties with all countries on the continent, including those that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel.
In July 2016, the Republic of Guinea, a small, overwhelmingly Muslim country in West Africa, renewed diplomatic relations with Israel, after it had cut ties with the Jewish state in 1967. Since then, Netanyahu has met with leaders of additional African Muslim-majority states, such as Mali and Somalia.
Netanyahu, who is also foreign minister, is currently also planning at least one other visit abroad before the April 9 Knesset election.
In late March, Netanyahu is expected to fly to Washington to participate in AIPAC’s annual Policy Conference. In DC, he is expected to also hold a meeting with US President Donald Trump and may even be treated to a state dinner at the White House.
On Thursday, the prime minister canceled his whirlwind visit next week to Davos, Switzerland, to attend the World Economic Forum.