The shift is spectacular. Sudan, a country long considered a rear base for international jihadist terrorism and one of the most valuable supporters of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, will normalize its relations with Israel. The announcement was made Friday, October 23 by the United States.
The staging is also significant of the role played by the Trump administration in this turnaround. Sitting in the Oval Office of the White House, the American president spoke by telephone, on loudspeaker, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Sudanese counterpart Abdallah Hamdok.
Huge victory, according to Donald Trump
Donald Trump, lagging behind in the polls for the November 3 presidential election, rejoiced on Twitter to “Huge victory today for the United States and for world peace”. “Sudan has accepted a peace and normalization agreement with Israel! With the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, that makes THREE Arab countries in just a few weeks. Others will follow! “, he wrote.
This announcement was preceded by hard work to clear up an extremely complex issue: that of compensation by Sudan for families of victims of terrorism. Khartoum last week agreed to a compensation package of 335 million dollars (282 million euros) for victims and relatives of past attacks.
These included the attacks perpetrated in 1998 by the jihadist nebula Al-Qaida against the United States embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed more than 200 people. Sudan, which hosted al-Qaida leader Osama Bin Laden in the 1990s, was ordered to pay such compensation by the American justice system.
A fragile political base
Following the compensation deal, Washington pledged to remove Sudan from the list of terrorist-supporting states it had been in since 1993 – along with Iran, North Korea and Syria.
Sudan soon to be removed from terrorism blacklist
The Sudanese government, in power since August 2019 after the overthrow of former strongman Omar El Bechir, hopes that this major turnaround will allow it to quickly revive the country’s economy. The inclusion of Sudan on the list of states supporting terrorism greatly hampered foreign investment, with few companies willing to risk breaking US laws. Normalization with Israel could also quickly translate into cooperation agreements in the areas of agriculture and trade. These issues are crucial for the transitional regime in Khartoum, whose political base remains fragile.
For Israel, diplomatic success is unquestionable. The two countries had been at war legally since 1948, although they have never confronted directly militarily. Normalization with Sudan comes a few weeks after the rapprochement with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, two countries in the Arabian Peninsula. It was also greeted by Egypt, the first Arab country to have signed peace with Israel, in 1979, and which borders both Sudan and the Hebrew state.
Emirati Jewish community comes out of the shadows
For the Palestinians, on the other hand, the disillusion is bitter. The Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas, which sits in the occupied West Bank, has “Condemned” the agreement, which Hamas called ” shameful “.
The normalization of Sudan-Israel relations is “A political sin which harms the Palestinian people and their just cause, also harms the national interest of Sudan (…) and only benefits Netanyahu”, reacted Friday evening Hazem Qassem, the official spokesperson of the Palestinian Islamist movement.