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Sudan is lining up as another member of the Arab axis of normalisation with Israel

May 29, 2020 at 4:13 pm

Protesters hold placards during a protest against meeting of Sudan’s Sovereign Council Head Abdel-Fattah Al-Burhan and Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, in front of Prime Ministry building in Khartoum, Sudan on 4 February 2020 [Mahmoud Hajaj/Anadolu Agency]

The Sudanese military continues its normalisation with the Israeli government at a steady pace, with cover provided by the government in Khartoum. The aircraft which landed in the Sudanese capital a few days ago from Ben Gurion Airport is unlikely to be last to do so. The plane carried a medical team and supplies in an effort to treat a Sudanese diplomat held to be behind the normalisation efforts with the Israelis. As usual, the media in Sudan has kept quiet.

Before the aircraft had even landed, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke of a call he made to the Sudanese leaders to wish them well on Eid Al-Fitr; it was one of a number of calls made to Arab leaders. We know who they are, so there is no need to list their names. They all have developing relations with Israel, moving from the “normal” to the “close ally” stage. Netanyahu’s announcement provoked no official or popular response in Sudan; he was clearly understood to be stating the obvious, the new norm.

When details of the meeting in Uganda between Netanyahu and the Chairman of Sudan’s Sovereignty Council, Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, in February were revealed, the latter claimed brazenly that it was in the interests of the Sudanese people. It would, he asserted, open the doors currently closed to Sudan, with the benefits of an end to its international isolation and the sanctions imposed after it was added to the US list of countries supporting terrorism.

Sudan leader: Israel is not our enemy

Indeed, Washington was the first to congratulate Khartoum on the Netanyahu meeting, which it helped to arrange. Burhan did not forget to add in a few clichés regarding the Palestinian issue and the Palestinians ’right to establish their state, the remaining opportunities for which Netanyahu continues to prey on, and who he was shaking hands with.

At the time, the response to the Netanyahu meeting from politicians and ordinary people alike did not meet expectations. The protests were limited and were countered by justifications for the moves towards normalisation with Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held talks with Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, head of Sudan's sovereign council [AA]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, head of Sudan’s sovereign council, 5 February 2020 [Anadolu Agency]

Although Abdalla Hamdok’s government denied any knowledge of the meeting, Burhan himself announcing that he informed the Prime Minister in advance. We must not forget that in September last year the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Asma Mohamed Abdalla, was the first to prompt questions about possible contacts with Israel behind the scenes when she said in two interviews that Sudan may establish relations with Israel on the basis that “nothing is permanent in politics”. According to Burhan, this justified his meeting with Netanyahu; he also claimed that only a few “ideological” groups opposed such moves.

Everything that has happened since then testifies to Khartoum’s transition from being the capital of the “Three Nos” Resolution — “no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, and no negotiations with it” — to normalisation steps.

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The military’s desire to monopolise this matter is noticeable, but everything said about transferring it to the government because it falls within the responsibilities of the “executive branch” is misleading. The Sudanese military has managed the normalisation process since arranging the meeting between Burhan and Netanyahu up to an including an army spokesman denying the news of the Israeli aircraft landing in Khartoum this week. This denial was rejected by Sudanese activists and journalists who saw for themselves the plane leave Tel Aviv for Sudan and its return.

The situation tells us a lot about the relations between Israel and the Arab regimes. Wherever there is military rule, a dictatorship or a regime against the revolution and democracy, we find that relations with Israel are being normalised. The Sudanese military has indicated in political, security and economic terms its eagerness to control all branches of the state. Senior officers are waiting for the right moment to pounce and monopolise the government so that it is another partner for the occupation state of Israel, and another member of the shameful Arab axis of normalisation.

This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Araby Al-Jadeed on 29 May 2020.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.