Israel pushing Congress to ensure Sudan peace happens

Sudan pledged to be the third Arab country to establish diplomatic relations with Israel this year, after the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

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
(photo credit: REUTERS/ MOHAMED NURELDIN ABDALLAH)
Israel has been urging US senators to pass a law granting Sudan immunity from future lawsuits from US victims of terror, in order not to jeopardize the burgeoning normalization between Jerusalem and Khartoum.
Israeli officials "reach out what seems like every other day on this issue," a Congressional source said on Monday.
The lobbying efforts come as Sudanese transitional leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan recently told US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that his country will not continue the process of establishing diplomatic ties with Israel unless the “legal peace” bill passes by the end of this year.
Two weeks ago, when a delegation from Jerusalem, along with adviser to the US ambassador to Israel Aryeh Lightstone, visited Sudan, Burhan asked the Israelis to help with this matter in Washington but did not threaten to call off normalization, Axios reported.
Jerusalem is concerned that if the bill falls through, it will not only damage the normalization process with Sudan, but hurt Israeli and American credibility when it comes to striking future deals with Arab states.
Sudan pledged to be the third Arab country to establish diplomatic relations with Israel this year, after the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, as part of negotiations with the US to be removed from its state sponsors of terrorism list and receive economic aid.
The legal immunity legislation has been held up by senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who support the overall aim of the bill and Sudan’s transition towards democracy, but seek an exception to be carved out in the bill for victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
In addition, Menendez has spoken out against a disparity in the compensation received by those who were US citizens during the 1998 attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and those who have since become naturalized citizens.
On that matter, "Israeli officials are taking painstaking efforts... to stress they are not lobbying one way or the other," the Congressional source said.
Sudan, however, would be unlikely to accept an agreement that would require them to compensate victims of terror beyond the $335 million to the victims of the embassy, in which 224 people were killed and thousands injured. The US State Department and Khartoum agreed on that sum as part of the agreement to have the US remove the country from its list of state sponsors of terror.
The Sudanese transitional government, established after longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir with an aim to move the country towards democracy, views the immunity bill as an important step in pulling itself out of a years-long economic crisis, without which investors would likely be reluctant to put money into Sudan’s shaky economy.
If Congress does not pass the bill before President-elect Joe Biden enters office on January 20, it would likely take months to get back on the agenda in Washington.