Sudan-Israel normalization announcement likely this weekend

The normalization would be unlikely to happen all at once, unlike in the recent cases of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, because of the unique circumstances in Sudan.

Sudanese protesters shout slogans and wave flags during a rally honouring fallen protesters at the Green Square in Khartoum, Sudan July 18, 2019 (photo credit: REUTERS/ MOHAMED NURELDIN ABDALLAH)
Sudanese protesters shout slogans and wave flags during a rally honouring fallen protesters at the Green Square in Khartoum, Sudan July 18, 2019
An announcement that Sudan and Israel will begin the process of normalizing ties is imminent, an Israeli government source said Thursday after Israeli and American officials visited Khartoum.
However, a Reuters report said Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok plans to take the decision to his country’s transitional parliament, which has yet to be formed, for approval.
“In my estimation, there will be a White House announcement on an agreement between Israel and Sudan in the coming days,” the Israeli source said.
US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are expected to speak in a phone call with Hamdok and Sudanese Sovereignty Council Chairman Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the civilian and military heads of Sudan’s transitional government, respectively, in the coming days.
After that call, the US would announce that Israel and Sudan are beginning the process of establishing diplomatic relations.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke with Hamdok on Thursday and, among other things, “applauded [his] efforts to date to improve Sudan’s relationship with Israel and expressed hope that they would continue.”
However, normalization would not come so fast, Sudanese sources told Reuters, due to Hamdok’s move to bring it to the legislature. The parliament has not yet been formed, and there is no scheduled date for it to happen.
Sudan’s transitional government was formed after longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir was toppled last year. It seeks to shift the country toward democracy.
Hamdok, in particular, is concerned that relations with Israel could be an unpopular, destabilizing move and not within a transitional government’s purview. Burhan has pushed for Sudan to reap the economic and security benefits of such ties. Burhan also met with Netanyahu in Uganda earlier this year.
On Wednesday, flight-tracking websites showed a private jet flying from Ben-Gurion Airport to Khartoum, which some observers saw as a sign of burgeoning relations between the countries. The Prime Minister’s Office would not confirm or deny reports that its director-general, Ronen Peretz,was aboard, along with US Embassy officials.
The US announced this week it is moving toward removing Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism after Khartoum paid $335 million meant to go to American victims of terrorism and their families. While the US did not make normalization with Israel a condition for removing the designation or providing much-needed economic aid, it has strongly encouraged Sudan to move in that direction.
The US is “continuing to work to get every nation to recognize Israel, the rightful Jewish homeland, and to acknowledge their basic, fundamental right to exist as a country, and that certainly includes Sudan,” Pompeo said in a press briefing on Wednesday.
“We are working diligently with them to make a case for why that’s in the Sudanese government’s best interest to make that sovereign decision,” he said. “We hope that they’ll do that. We hope that they’ll do that quickly. We hope every country will do that quickly.”
There have been many reports in the past month that Sudan was about to agree to ties with Israel, an American diplomatic source said, adding that Khartoum has to make its own decision at the time that best suits it.
The US source also took issue with claims that the Trump administration was pressuring Khartoum for a normalization announcement before the US election in less than two weeks, saying that an enduring peace happens when the opportunity arrives and not because of political considerations.
Israel is “very close” to establishing ties with Sudan, Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen told Channel 13 Wednesday evening.
Khartoum was the site of the 1967 Arab League decision on the “Three No’s” – no recognition, no negotiations and no peace with Israel, giving normalization with Sudan deep symbolism for Israel and its standing in the region.