Israel, Sudan set up normalization teams

The news of Netanyahu and Burhan’s meeting drew a muted response in Sudan, where the government was not informed that it would be taking place.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara boarding the plane to Uganda (photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara boarding the plane to Uganda
(photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
Israel and Sudan began work towards establishing diplomatic ties on Tuesday, the day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Sudan’s leader, chairman of the Sovereignty Council of Sudan, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan announced normalization between the countries.
Israeli officials said both countries are “currently setting up teams to work on how to advance cooperation between the countries and establish diplomatic relations.”
Sudan sees normalization with Israel as a way to improve ties with the US, which has classified the Muslim African country as a state sponsor of terrorism since 1993.
Al-Burhan made his first remarks on Tuesday night on the meeting with Netanyahu after almost a day of silence, saying the meeting was “to preserve and maintain Sudanese national security and achieve the supreme interests of the Sudanese people.”
Sudan’s leader added that the country still holds a “principled stance on the Palestinian issue and the right of its people to establish its independent accordance with the Arab consensus and Arab League decisions.”
The news of Netanyahu and al-Burhan’s meeting drew a muted response in Sudan, where the government was not informed in advance that it would be taking place.
Sudan’s cabinet discussed the meeting on Tuesday morning, despite still not receiving updates from al-Burhan. The cabinet summoned leaders of the Forces for Freedom and Change, an alliance that fronted protests that toppled notorious dictator Omar al-Bashir last year, for consultations, FFC sources said.
The meeting was held in secret, with the IDF censoring early reports of it in Israel and only a small number of Sudanese officials knowing of it in advance. After the meeting, the Prime Minister’s Office announced that Israel and Sudan would work towards normalization. No photos were released from the summit.
The United Arab Emirates organized Monday’s meeting between Netanyahu and al-Burhan, the AP reported. The meeting took place in Entebbe, Uganda. Saudi Arabian and Egyptian officials were also informed about it.
“We learned through the media about the meeting,” Sudanese government spokesman Faisal Mohamed Saleh told Sudanese media, adding that the country’s Council of Ministers was not informed about it. “We will wait for clarifications after the return of the President of the Sovereign Council.”
Sudanese Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok, who was visiting Djibouti, did not make any statements, which the Sudan Tribune said was unusual.
Opponents of the move cited a need for coordination between the two parts of the government, and some ideological opponents of relations with Israel posted calls for protests on social media.
Sudan declared war on Israel in 1948 and 1967, and Khartoum was where the Arab League announced its “three nos” following the Six Day War: no peace with Israel, no recognition and no negotiations. Sudan was in Tehran’s orbit for decades, and in 2009, Israel destroyed Iranian weapons shipments passing through Sudan en route to the Gaza Strip. Intelligence agencies continued to watch for similar shipments in the ensuing years, but by 2016, Khartoum began to move away from Iran, and Israel urged the US to take advantage of that shift.
Sudan now views warming ties with Israel as a way to remove its designation by the US as a state sponsor of terrorism and to counter its current international isolation.
After al-Bashir, perpetrator of the 2003 genocide in Darfur which caused the deaths of approximately 400,000 Darfuris, and displaced more than three million people, was deposed last year, the transitional government in Sudan has been made up of a military and a civilian component. Al-Burhan has led the coalition since July 2019, and represents the military.
In his remarks on Tuesday, al-Burhan said that he has the authority under Sudan’s constitution to develop ties with Israel.
Al-Burhan spoke with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo the day before the meeting, and Pompeo thanked him for “his leadership in normalizing ties with Israel.”
PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat came out strongly against Sudan-Israel normalization on Monday, saying “the meeting is a stab in the back of the Palestinian people and a blatant departure from the Arab Peace Initiative.”