A senior Israeli delegation headed by Foreign Minister Eli Cohen went to Khartoum last week and met Sudan’s military leader Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan. The agenda included “ways to establish fruitful relations” between Israel and Sudan. The normalisation of ties between the African country and the occupation state were also discussed.
Associated Press reported three military officials as saying that Cohen’s trip marked progress on the issue of normalisation. “It has been agreed to move forward towards the normalisation of relations between the two countries,” said the Sudanese Foreign Ministry following a meeting between Cohen and Sudan’s Foreign Minister Ali Al-Sadiq.
I am not alone in thinking that normalisation and the “prospects of cooperation” do not describe fully this rapprochement between the two states. It seems that there are other issues more important than such lies which are being used to promote this bogus marriage between Israel — a rogue, apartheid state led by far-right extremists — and Sudan, which is being led by the leaders of a coup d’état.
When the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco signed the deals to normalise ties with Israel — the Abraham Accords — starting in September 2020, Sudan and Israel declared that they would normalise ties the following month. The signing ceremony was expected to take place at the White House, but the deal was signed secretly in Khartoum two months later as, according to experts, the military leaders along with their civilian partners could not get a mandate from the people to go ahead with it.
Once it was in the bag, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin signed an agreement to provide Sudan a bridge loan to clear the $1.2 billion owed to the World Bank, said Reuters. The US paid the money and removed Sudan from its list of states that sponsor terrorism, but what else has the African country got in return for normalisation with Israel?
“With the clearance of these arrears we look forward to securing finance from the World Bank Group and other multilateral institutions to strengthen our economy and reach all corners of Sudan with transformative development projects,” claimed Gibril Ibrahim, Sudan’s Minister of Finance and Economic Planning at the time.
Where, though, are the “strengthened” economy and the “transformative development projects”? There has been no indication of economic development, democracy or human rights reforms. All that has happened is a new military coup against the semi-civilian council which ran the country following the first military coup that made the opportunity to elect a parliament impossible and led to an authoritarian regime.
This is exactly what the US and Israel wanted, because only an authoritarian ruler in such an Arab and Muslim country would agree to go ahead with normalisation of ties with Israel. Only a dictator could proceed with normalisation, including security and intelligence cooperation.
In order not to ignore the facts, at every meeting, Sudanese leaders have spoken about the need for a solution to the Palestinian cause and stability in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. However, this is the facade which every country uses when it is involved in an immoral relationship with the occupation state of Israel.
Apart from intelligence and security cooperation, nothing related to Sudan’s deal to normalise ties with Israel is actually “normal”. In January 2021, Cohen, Israel’s then intelligence minister, led a delegation to Khartoum, held talks with senior Sudanese officials and signed a memorandum of understanding with the Defence Minister on security-related issues.
Just four months after signing the deal to normalise ties with the occupation state, Israeli public broadcaster KAN reported senior Sudanese officials as saying that they were disappointed with the outcome of the deal. Washington, they insisted, had not fulfilled its promise to invest in agriculture and technology projects in Sudan.
One year after signing the deal, Al-Burhan reiterated in an interview with Sudan’s state-run TV station that intelligence sharing between Israeli and Sudan was the core of the whole issue. He pointed out that this enabled the country to dismantle and arrest suspected “militant groups” that “could have undermined the security of Sudan and the region.”
The Times of Israel reported in June 2022 that intelligence officials from both countries exchanged visits, including Israeli Mossad officers. The dismantling and detention of the so-called “militant groups” provides a clearer picture about Burhan’s normalisation of ties with Israel.
During the second half of 2021, media reports highlighted the issue of Sudan’s crackdown on Palestinians in the country, mainly those having relations with the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, which won the Palestinian legislative election in 2006. It was alleged that they had invested in Sudan to fund Hamas activities within occupied Palestine. Hamas, it should be remembered, has never carried out any resistance operations beyond the borders of historic Palestine, so Sudan’s security would never be “undermined” by the movement in any way, unless Israel decided to make it an issue and carry out its own operations in Sudan to discredit Palestinian resistance.
Palestine’s Al-Quds newspaper quoted a well-informed Palestinian source in September 2021 as saying that the crackdown “increased so as to include the arrest of Palestinian businessmen, academics and students, mostly from the Gaza Strip, and others who had arrived in Sudan after emigrating from several countries such as Syria, Lebanon.”
A Palestinian businessman who ran a construction company in Khartoum for about two decades, fled to the Gaza Strip after the detention of his two sons by the Sudanese authorities and the confiscation of his company’s assets, estimated at $15 million. His sons were released later. He said that he ran a family business and stressed that his company had no links to Hamas, but he sent money to charities in Gaza regularly to help the poor and the needy.
This was all the fruit of the intelligence sharing between Israel and Khartoum. It can be described from Israel’s point of view as a substantial outcome for cooperation between the two sides, but where are the outcomes for the people of Sudan in terms of development, agriculture and technology? There are none, and there never will be.
Burhan now joins the rogue’s gallery of the worst dictators in the Middle East following his Israel-backed coup. He knows very well that staying in office depends on US and Israeli support, so he cannot reject any of their demands, meaning that he must market his cooperation with the US and Israel under the guise of normalisation in return for fake benefits for the Sudanese people. It is an international charade of the worst kind.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.