South Sudan matters

It is a rare and truly remarkable honor to personally witness a nation come into existence.

South Sudan independence celebrations 521 (photo credit: REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya)
South Sudan independence celebrations 521
(photo credit: REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya)
It is a rare and truly remarkable honor to personally witness a nation come into existence.
While many of Israel’s more veteran citizens were afforded the special, even amazing, opportunity to see our modern Jewish State attain independence, those of us in the younger generations lacked that direct personal experience. I thought of this as I flew to the new nation of South Sudan recently and began working to forge positive cultural and economic ties with the embryonic country’s leadership.
All students of international relations know that Sudan in particular, and northern Africa in general, are areas fraught with tension, famine and, all too often, bloody warfare. While many factors drive these desperate conditions, in Sudan the primary obstacle to peace and economic development has been the presence of dictatorial Islamic forces committed to suppressing minorities and stifling contacts with the West. Sudan has been the scene of repeated mass killings launched by the regime, today based in northern Sudan, rendering the south a place where lawlessness, wanton rape, murder and narcotics and weapons trafficking were the norm.
The establishment of this nascent nation, South Sudan, which came into existence earlier this year, was born out of a sincere desire by the resident Christians to create a stable country modeled upon democratic values and an economy based upon honesty and transparency. While the citizenry is mired in desperate poverty from which it is unlikely to escape anytime soon, the decision by the people of South Sudan to join the community of nations is viewed as a source of tremendous hope for a brighter future.
Given that we as Israelis are surrounded by a region largely hostile to our very existence, it is critical that we always work to forge positive relationships with any and all parties who demonstrate an inclination to be our friends and allies.
I truly believe that such a hope exists within this new nation and therefore saw it as my personal and national obligation to forge bonds with South Sudan as early in its existence as possible.
LIKE ISRAEL, South Sudan is a nation born out of chaos and conflict. Like Israel, South Sudan lives with hostile neighbors at its borders. Indeed, just like Israel, its people live with a sense of resolve and confidence that their existence is a God-given right. I marvel at this ironclad determination.
I found in the South Sudanese government officials a real appreciation for these commonalities between the two nations. In particular, I was assured that the South Sudanese government would plan to open an embassy in Jerusalem, an act that would strongly position them as a trusted friend and partner.
While much of the Western world is responding with relative indifference to the creation of “yet another state” in North Africa, I strongly feel that the creation of this new nation deserves the attention and admiration of the entire international community. South Sudan’s is a story of national independence that can give all of us hope at a time of wrenching global uncertainties. Whether it be the Arab Spring, the continuing threats from Iran and North Korea or the constant spread of Islamic jihad into all corners of the world, we live in a time of great instability. The creation of South Sudan is proof that positive progress is still happening in the march of history.
I believe that Israel can have a real friend in South Sudan, precisely in a region where most would expect to find only foes. Fostering such friendship will not necessarily be easy. It will require dedication and vision, not to mention an Israeli commitment of limited resources. But I know that if we sow the seeds, some of which I and others have already planted, this new nation will be a source of pride not only for Israel but for peace-loving peoples all around the globe.
The writer is the Deputy Speaker of the Knesset and chairman of the World Likud.