Alwaght- The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who started normalization process with Arab states in 2020 is relaunching it after his return to power to get more Arab countries on board. While over the past two years all eyes were on Saudi Arabia to normalize after long years of secret relations with the Israelis, the coup government of Sudan showed it is the latest myrmidon to this tension-generating process and embraces the Israelis with a thaw deal.
As part of arrangements for the deal, the Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen flew to Sudan on Thursday and met with Sudan’s ruling General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, Foreign Minister Ali al-Sadeq, and some other officials. Sudan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced in a statement about the results of Cohen visit that they had reached an agreement with the Israeli regime regarding the normalization, development and promotion of relations in various fields. The focus of the meetings was the development of relations between the two sides in various fields, especially agriculture, energy, health, water and education, the statement further said.
After his return to Tel Aviv, Cohen said that agreement with Sudan “contributes to national security of the state of Israel.”
“Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, is remembered in Israel as the city where the Arab countries decided on the historic ‘Three Nos’: No peace with Israel, no negotiations with Israel, and no recognition of Israel,” he said, adding: “We are building a new reality with the Sudanese, in which the ‘Three Nos’ will become the ‘Three Yeses’: Yes to negotiations between Israel and Sudan, yes to recognition of Israel and yes to peace between the states and between the peoples.”
Cohen further said that after signing this agreement, Tel Aviv will help Khartoum in all areas. In addition, Khartoum’s interest in agreement with Tel Aviv is that it opens the doors of Sudan to the US and other Western countries.
The ruling government in Sudan announced the normalization of its relations with the Israeli regime in January 2021, and despite widespread public opposition to the decision, it announced its intention to promote relations with Tel Aviv and develop them in all fields, but the spread of political crisis and chaos prevented the Sudanese authorities from completing the normalization process. Now, with the relative stability that has come after the agreement between the military government and the political and civil groups, the coup leaders see the opportunity ripe to build closeness to the Israelis. After Morocco, Sudan is the second African Arab country to accept normalization.
The agreement of the military-led government of Sudan to normalization drew sharp reactions from the Sudanese. People Call, a coalition including Islamic Movement groups, announced it rejects any relationship with Israeli regime “due to the occupation of the Palestinian land and the desecration of Muslim sanctities.”
Referring to the establishment of diplomatic relations with the occupiers, the Popular Congress Party, another opposition party, emphasized that the transitional government with its various institutions has no right to make decisions on essential and vital issues.
“The goal of this desperate and frantic effort is to keep Sudan under military rule with the support of Israel, which is contrary to official requests and arrangements to achieve a democratic transition,” the statement said.
Also, popular forces described the normalization deal as humiliating and completely contrary to the values of the Sudanese people and Sudan’s history of opposition to legitimization of occupation and terrorism.
What coup leaders expect from normalization
After the military commanders seized the power in Sudan, Western countries imposed economic sanctions on the coup government and cut off the flow of foreign financial aids, causing difficult conditions for the Sudanese. According to the World Food Organization, more than 70 percent of the people of Sudan are in a poor living situation, and if international aid is not sent, the situation will be catastrophic. Therefore, the military government considers normalization as a powerful instrument to overcome these conditions. The coup leaders are trying to take advantage of the influence of the Israelis by normalizing relations with Tel Aviv and convince the West and especially the US to lift sanctions for economic relief.
The coup leaders are trying to pretend that a thaw deal works in the best interests of Sudan and with the help of the Israelis, they can get rid of economic crisis and take the credit. Actually, they have realized the fact that increasing pressure and violence will no longer work, and the continuation of this unstable situation will intensify popular protests and make the shaky foundations of the coup government more unstable than before, and this is no good news for the coup plotters who do not intend to cede the power to civilians.
From another angle, the military government has no popular legitimacy, and the country was scene to massive protests last year, with hundreds killed with violent crackdown by the military. Therefore, al-Burhan and other military officials are trying to garner legitimacy for themselves abroad by normalizing relations and reverse domestic deficiencies outside the borders. The increase in foreign supporters allows the military to maintain its power, although the military government has agreed with Sudan’s political leaders to transfer power, but in practice it has shown that it is not willing to hand over the government to civilians, and strengthening relations with the Israelis is regarded advantageous to the ruling generals to this end.
Israeli interests behind normalization with Sudan
In the Israeli-Arab normalization, Tel Aviv has the lion’s share and it is no exception with Sudan deal. Mahmoud Helmi, a researcher of West Asian affairs, believes that Sudan will not benefit much from the normalization agreement except for lifting some economic sanctions and concluding limited trade agreements.
In an interview with Al-Khaleej Online website, Helmi said that the “biggest gainer of the normalization is Israel and particularly Netanyahu government which stated that establishing such relations with Arab countries is a priority, and this agreement naturally allows Israel to gain a foothold in Sudan and end any activity of Palestine’s Hamas in Khartoum which is a crucial station for the Palestinian resistance movement.”
The Hamas movement has been able to build its influence in the Sudanese society for several decades, and now it is one of the most influential groups of Islamist bloc in Sudan, something showing that the Palestinian resistance has extended to North Africa, and this is a threat to the Israeli interests. Therefore, by bringing Sudan to its side, Tel Aviv is trying to undermine Hamas in Sudan and remove an Arab country from the list of Palestine supporters.
Helmi adds that by investing in Sudan’s agriculture, in addition to using the country’s airspace which makes it shorter for its flights to reach all Africa, Israeli regime makes huge profits.
“By signing the normalization deal with one of the most prominent African and Arab countries, Israel will make an important achievement and builds a probability to influence other countries with the aim of normalizing,” said Helmi.
The Israeli regime is trying to invest in the sensitive agricultural sector of Sudan and show a positive image of itself to Sudanese public as the African country is in desperate need to produce more food. Agriculture in Sudan had been forgotten in recent years and people had turned to oil and underground resources. Actually, abandoning lands, which are highly fertile, has caused famine in the country. Therefore, taking control of pulse of Sudan’s agricultural and economic sectors grants the Israelis the opportunity to align the political and economic developments in that country with their policies.
On the other hand, Israeli regime has been struggling for years to gain observer status in the African Union (AU), but it has been unsuccessful so far due to opposition of such countries as Algeria. Tel Aviv seeks to add to its weight with assistance from Sudan against the opponents and join the AU. Thus, part of the normalization agreements with Sudan and Morocco, and resumption of diplomatic ties with Chad and Guinea are meant to pave the way for accession to the AU. Given the rich and substantial natural and underground resources African continent has, the Israelis are preparing to dominate them. The developing African countries along with Asian states would have a deep influence in the future global order. Aware of this fact, China, Russia, and the Western countries have already built influence in this continent. Meanwhile, Israeli regime which struggles to break decades-long regional isolation, has put high on its agenda boosting ties with Africa to broaden range of its international allies.