The Deputy Chairman of the Sovereignty Council in Sudan, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (also known as Hemetti), announced on TV two days ago that the country will establish relations with Israel to take advantage of its advanced technology. It is interesting that Hemetti does not consider this to be normalisation, but merely a normal relationship. He does not seem to know that they are one and the same thing. If he does, then he is trying to outsmart us.
Hemetti is aspiring to be President of Sudan, and is aware that the road to power must pass through Tel Aviv, just as the other Arab rulers do, whether those who normalised decades ago, or those waiting to sign up, such as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman. The de facto ruler of the Kingdom appears to be willing to barter his throne for normalisation with Israel, and is just waiting for the right moment to do so.
Speaking very frankly, and sometimes rudely, Hemetti justified normalisation by saying that Sudan wasn't the only country doing this and wasn't any worse or better than those linking up with Israel, especially those sharing borders with the state such as Egypt and Jordan. In short, he was trying to say that he could not be more royal than the king. Moreover, the general spoke boldly and challenged any man to stand against him on the normalisation issue. "For development, for agriculture, we need Israel," he was reported as saying by Al-Araby Al-Jadeed. "We're not scared of anyone. But these will be relations, not normalisation. Relations, not normalisation. Okay? We're following this line." Finally, he got to the point: "Whether we like it or not, relations with Israel are tied to removing Sudan from the US list of states sponsoring terrorism."
The senior official believes that normalising with Israel would open the door to good prospects for cooperation, as Israel has the advanced technology and agriculture that his country needs. He was very open about this, and we can credit him with being more daring and courageous than his Emirati counterpart, who tried to justify the UAE normalisation agreement with Israel in the context of stopping the annexation of the West Bank. This has been denied several times, the last occasion just two days ago by the US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, who said that the matter was postponed, not cancelled.
The head of the Sudanese Sovereignty Council, Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, met with US officials and most likely with Israeli officials as well in Abu Dhabi a few days ago in order to negotiate Sudan's removal from the list of countries supporting terrorism. This has been a subject of discussion for more than three decades. It was said that pressure was exerted on him by the UAE to link normalisation to financial aid and it was rumoured that he refused to do so, not because he is against normalisation, but because the financial support was not worthwhile.
Al-Burhan was apparently offered $1 billion, most of which was from the UAE, but he asked for $4 billion, according to the New York Times. It seems that Hemetti convinced Al-Burhan to take $1 billion as a start, which is not surprising, as he is a mercenary and livestock trader who has tremendous negotiating ability, even in political situations. He would also be able to kill more than one bird with one stone: he will not only present himself to the Israelis, Americans and Emiratis as the person who can strike deals, thus raising his value in their eyes so that they support him in his presidency dream, but also present himself to the Sudanese people as the one who got their country off the US terrorism list, and therefore gained access to foreign aid to help ease the suffocating economic crisis in Sudan. Hemetti is so bold that he does not pay attention to the Sudanese people who reject normalisation, believing that none of them should talk because they do not have a mandate from the people, as if he and his fellow generals came to power through elections.
Sudan's Prime Minister, Abdalla Hamdok, is hesitant. He has made statements in which he rejects linking Sudan's removal from the terrorism list with normalisation. He said that the matter of normalisation requires an in-depth discussion in Sudan. However, he cannot stop the process that is in full swing behind his back, even though he is the only person who can do so, or at least suspend it until real representatives of the Sudanese people are in place. Hamdok came to power on the back of the revolution, and, at this stage, represents the civilian component that is supposed to take over affairs after the end of the current transitional period. It seems, though, that the matter is bigger than him and greater than the dreams, aspirations and slogans of the Sudanese revolution; a revolution that has begun to fade away, and which may be laid to rest soon.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Araby Al-Jadeed on 4 October 2020
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.