Chad president opens first embassy in Israel in controversial normalisation step

Chad president opens first embassy in Israel in controversial normalisation step
Chad's opening of its embassy in Israel comes as President Mahamat Deby concluded a 48-hour state visit to the country, which included meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as a controversial visit to the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque.
3 min read
03 February, 2023
President Deby's opening of an embassy in Israel comes as Tel Aviv and N'djamena renewed diplomatic ties in 2019 [Getty]

Chad President Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno on Thursday opened his country's first embassy in Israel, four years after the countries renewed ties following a decades-long rupture, an Israeli statement said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office called the embassy's inauguration in Ramat Gan near Tel Aviv "a historic moment".

Netanyahu said in 2020 that he had discussed "the possibility of opening an embassy in Jerusalem" with a Chadian delegation.

That would have been a coup for the right-winger who has been pressing foreign governments to set up their embassies in the city since then-president Donald Trump moved the US embassy in 2018 in a controversial move that sparked outrage and anger among Palestinians.

It appears Chad opted to follow the vast majority of the international community and open its embassy in Tel Aviv instead. The move is still highly controversial given the consensus among most Arab and Muslim-majority to not normalise ties with Israel until an independent Palestinian state is established.

A number of Arab states though have established diplomatic ties with Israel, including the UAE, Morocco and Bahrain - drawing widespread anger from Palestinians as well as disapproval from the majority of the Arab public, according to opinion polls.

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President Deby arrived in Israel on Tuesday for a 48-hour state visit, which included meeting with Netanyahu as well as the head of Israel's Mossad spy agency, David Barnea.

Deby also visited the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque under the protection of Israeli security forces, one day before the embassy's inauguration. The visit drew condemnation from Hamas, who labelled the move as a a "great provocation" and a symbol of "the denial of Palestinian people's rights and the feelings of the families of the martyrs and prisoners".

Hamas also slammed Deby’s decision to inaugurate Chad's embassy in Israel.

Following their meeting on Thursday, Netanyahu said: "We are strengthening our friendship and our common interests in pursuing peace, security and prosperity."

Israel recognised Chad when it declared independence from France in 1960 and by 1962 had opened an embassy in the capital N'djamena.

However, ties between Israel and Chad were severed in 1972 in the wake of the Arab-Israeli wars of 1967 and 1973, which led a number of African states to cut ties with Israel.

In recent years, Israel has highlighted areas of cooperation ranging from security to technology and agriculture to improve ties on the continent.

In a 2019 visit to Chad, Netanyahu and Deby announced a resumption of diplomatic relations. Meanwhile, an Israeli ambassador -  the first in nearly 50 years - arrived in N'djamena in May last year.

One of the world's poorest countries, Chad is not an Arab League member state but belongs to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

The embassy's opening comes as Palestinians continue to be subjected to Israeli violence. At least 36 Palestinians have been killed so far this year, while Israel recently launched multiple airstrikes on the impoverished Gaza enclave, which it has besieged for over 15 years.