Opposition MK demands Netanyahu reveal if Israel selling arms to Chad

Sources in N’Djamena say Déby’s visit ‘focused on security’ and that Jerusalem is already supplying Chadian army with weapons to help combat northern rebels

Meretz party leader MK Tamar Zandberg attends a joint Knesset House and Constitution Committee meeting at the Knesset, July 10, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Meretz party leader MK Tamar Zandberg attends a joint Knesset House and Constitution Committee meeting at the Knesset, July 10, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Meretz party leader Tamar Zandberg on Sunday urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reveal if meetings held during Chadian President Idriss Déby’s visit to Israel will include negotiations on Israeli arms sales to the African country.

“The concern is that the visit will also be used for secret arms deals in which Israeli arms will be sold to persecute political opponents, human rights activists and journalists,” Zandberg said in a statement.

Déby on Sunday became the first president of his country to visit Israel and pledged a new era of relations when meeting Netanyahu, decades after ties were severed.

Chad government sources told Reuters earlier that Déby’s visit is “focused on security,” and that Israel has supplied the Chadian army with weaponry and other equipment this year 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 militancy in the country.

“The leader of Chad is a despicable person who is responsible for the persecution of LGBT people, arresting journalists, arresting dissidents in the opposition and establishing a dictatorial regime in his country,” Zandberg said of Déby.

“When there is a choice between the liberal democracies and the world’s most dubious leaders, Netanyahu always chooses the dubious. Netanyahu’s foreign policy continues to tarnish Israel’s reputation around the world,” the left-wing opposition party leader added.

Netanyahu and Déby have declined to comment on whether their talks included weapons sales. But the Chadian leader on Sunday underscored that both countries face “a common battle” against terrorism.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Idriss Deby of Chad meet at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, November 25, 2018. (GPO)

“Mankind must simply get rid of this thing,” Déby said of terrorism after meeting with Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

For decades, Israel has been accused of selling weapons and military services to human rights violators around the world, 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.

Zandberg has been at the forefront of efforts to curb Israeli arms sales to rights violators. However, as an opposition MK, her proposals have rarely gained traction in the Knesset.

Rohingya Muslim refugees making their way into Bangladesh from Myanmar on September 7, 2017. (Dan Kitwood/ Getty Images)

Recent petitions to the High Court of Justice to end arms sales to South Sudan and Myanmar have ended in a gagged ruling, preventing the decision from being published by Israeli media.

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.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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