Sudan-Israel Normalization Agreement: Interests over Principles
Prof. Dr Kamal Mohammed Jahallah Al-Khader
Sudan in the crosshairs of Israeli politics
The geographical dimension of the State of Sudan has not been healed since its independence from Britain in 1956, up to nowadays. Then has become a target of the Zionist entity, which established a state on the Palestinian territories in 1948. This is that Sudan, in the Israeli imagination, is a diverse natural resource, vast areas, and a significant population. In addition to the existence of freshwater, that qualifies Sudan to be a competitive force at least at the level of the Arab States.
Since the 1950s, the strategic planners in Israel have dealt with Sudan in accordance with plans. These plans were well prepared in order to be implemented in stages, beginning in the 1950s, providing humanitarian aid to displaced people on the Sudanese-Ethiopian border after the 1955 rebellion. Israel intended to provide this humanitarian action, to strengthen tribal and ethnic disputes, and to expand the disharmony between northern and southern Sudan.
By the 1960s, Israel began to support and train the Anianian forces. Israel’s vision has always been to make Sudan busy with its south so that it does not support Egypt in any joint action against Israel. From the mid-1960s to the early 1970s, Israel provided weapons to the southern rebels, a number of them were trained in Israel, and Israel even established a private infantry training school. This school graduated military cadres, who led the rebellion in the south. Israeli experience and experts were involved in some of the battles that took place in South Sudan at that time.
Support in the field of arms supply and training seemed to have not achieved Israel’s desire; therefore, it began to think of new plans. After the apparent weakness of the rebellion in 1969, when it pushed for a plan that leads to a bloody, the entire southern region is organized, and the Israeli focus that time was on disseminating what was useful to the historical ties between the Jewish people and the African peoples.
Since the time of King Solomon, and the link between what it considered an analogy between the Zionist movement and the movements of the African Negro groups. However, this scheme failed with the Addis Ababa Agreement in 1972, between the Sudanese Government and southern rebels.
After the decade of calm and stability, which followed the Addis Ababa Agreement (1972-1983), Israel disappeared from the Sudanese scene or nearly disappeared. However, after the emergence of a new rebellion led by John Garang in 1983, Israel was resurrected. During this period, Israel met unprecedented support from Ethiopia. This is because the latter was at great enmity with Sudan during the reign of Menqusto Haile Mariam. Perhaps fortunately for the new rebel movement, it was significant support and was followed by a syndrome: the emergence of oil in South Sudan and the strained Arab relations among themselves after the signing of the Camp David Agreement in 1979.
While the 1980s witnessed huge provision of sophisticated weapons to rebels in the south, as well as the use of Israeli satellites to provide information on the deployment of government forces in South Sudan, the 1990s also witnessed Israel provision of more sophisticated support in the same region. Israeli tracks were influenced by the climate of interest between Sudan and Ethiopia. During this period, the rebellion was also affected by its division into three fractions (Garang, Machar, and Akol). Although The Fall of Manquso has had a direct impact on Israeli support for the rebels, developments in the Horn of Africa, that time, opened up a new area of Israeli penetration into the region.
The split of the rebellion in South Sudan has brought three Israeli fractions into a difficult jumble. But eventually, it strengthened its relations with the Nasser side led by Lam Akol, after the emergence of unitary tendencies of John Garang, and his abandonment of the idea of demanding an independent state. Israel supported Nasser’s side for his recognition of the principle of self-determination in an agreement he signed with Khartoum in 1997. However, the overall goal of Israeli support was to defeat Arab support for the rescue government, to block work on the Jonglei Canal, to warn Egyptian peasants from migrating to south Sudan, and to focus on the south is an independent State with an African identity.
By 2002, when the Mishakos Agreement was signed, and 2005, in which the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed in Naivasha, Kenya, Israel was on the line, waiting for the outcome of the talks, and its assessment of the two important agreements, that they had not resolved the disputes between the North and the South, as far as they laid the practical and legitimate basis for south Sudan’s secession from the north. This was in line with the Sudanese Government’s acceptance of the principle of self-determination and other substantive demands made by John Garang and his movement. The Southerners had what they wanted and Israel had what they wanted, thus a referendum was held for southerners in February 2011, and almost a 100% vote for the secession option. On July 9, 2011, South Sudan declared separation from the mother state, and the nascent state was formed.
It was not enough for Israel, as it was carrying out its hostilities against Sudan, before the secession of the South — 2003 witnessed the launch of the Dar Four crisis, a tightly prepared timing, as this time followed Michakos (2002). It respectively paved the way for the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005. This was preceded by Israel’s engagement in the ethnic and regional multi-ethnic chord on the outskirts of Sudan, igniting conflicts and wars. In this regard, Israel supported with both arms, training and planning (a policy of tightening the parties). She then received Sudanese nationals, most notably from Dar Four, for the first time forming a Sudanese community in Israel. Not only did Israel intervene militarily in eastern Sudan by targeting a convoy in the Eastern Desert under the pretext of smuggling arms from Iran to the Resistance Movement (Hamas) in Palestine. Moreover, it also hit a civilian car on the road to Butsudan airport in March 2009 and a military manufacturing site (Yarmouk) in the heart of Khartoum in 2011.
We can conclude from what has been mentioned from Israel’s policy towards Sudan from the 1950s, through the reigns of post-independence national governments, to the December 2018 revolution, that Israel targeted post-independence national governments with strategies implemented in stages. Meanwhile, according to reality, each stage is different from the other, from Uganda, Ethiopia, and South Sudan. The aim was to systematically target the rebels in the south and to play the chord of multi-ethnic and regional in the various parts of the country. Similarly, Israel targeted to sit down with Sudan and prevent it from becoming a regional power, influential at the political, economic and military levels.
We can also conclude that these strategies have been successful, at the very different stages of their implementation – to make Sudan drained resources, shackle the economy. Reason to that Sudan was unable to play its role as a geostrategically positioned state, and consequently, disrupt development projects, halt production, and ignite party wars, through a proxy war, once one stops, only another begins to be more violent. This also resulted in the displacement of significant numbers of people in crisis areas, from the countryside to the cities and capitals of the states. Then began accelerated migration from the countryside and state cities to the triangular capital (Khartoum, Bahri and Omdurman).
This constituted a pressure on the services provided on the scarcity, so the triangular capital was deflated, and the marginal occupations, and the negative security phenomena, were clearly evident, so the production sites in the irrigated projects and the rainy ones were affected. All this was a result of the civil wars supported by Israel, in addition to the country’s exposure from time to time to droughts, desertification and desert encroachment.
In this atmosphere of war and crises of man-made and nature — generations and generations of Sudanese were born and raised — making Israel nothing but an “enemy”. This inherited enmity has been reinforced by the crimes of that State in the occupied Palestinian territories, and the successive regimes in Sudan have classified Israel only as enemies. This is because the media of Arab and Islamic States do not make Israel a criminal worthy of crushing.
December 2018 Revolution: A Policy of Primacy of Interests over Principles
The subject of normalization with Israel was not raised in the literature of successive rescue governments, from June 1989 until April 2019, which seemed to advance the principles of interests in this case. But in the latest years leading up to the December 2018 revolution, close observers have observed voices of some leaders of the National Convention here and there. Giving starting point of the subject of normalization, shamefully, and in narrow circles, some of which have been elevated to the media (such as Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim’s 2016 statement that normalization with Israel is subject to be studied ). It is most likely that this issue was raised as a pulse, venting, or together, as many of the outlets through which the rescue government dealt with the international and regional community were tightened politically and economically. Particularly since the rescue had suffered for nearly two decades and increased an American and Western economic blockade, which was difficult to escape, and the finger of blame often indicated that Israel had a direct and indirect role in its tightening.
When the December 2018 revolution completed its mission to displace the rescue system on April 7, 2019, Sudan opened up to a new reality, new horizons, but at the same time inherited a heavy legacy in concern with a collapsed economy, lack of peace, and deteriorating international relations. The post-revolutionary authority, and then the transitional government, had to make breakthroughs in that tired legacy, accumulated over three centuries, as it had to face a deep state, holding the keys of the country at all levels.
From April 7, 2019, to February 2, 2020, relations with Israel were not high on the post-revolutionary authority’s agenda and the transitional government and did not address their foreign relations policy. They should not have been the Government, which was concentrated at home, and on two fundamental issues: peace and the economy. Before the start of these two important issues, Sudan’s relations with some Western countries and institutions began to open their doors to Sudan. Hence, Sudan began to gradually break the international embargo, followed by a strong presence and its active participation in some international and regional conferences, meetings and events after a number of years of absence from these forums.
For instance, February 3, 2020, marked Sudan’s entry into an unexpected new phase in its international relations, with the headline: “Sudan prepares for normalization with Israel after nearly seven decades of resistance.” An internal Sudanese media would not have responded to the report, broadcast and disseminated this shocking news of the Sudanese collective mind. Only the Israeli media took the stand in this area when it revealed a secret visit by the President of the Sudanese Sovereign Council, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, to Uganda. That visit was an opportunity for a meeting between Al-Burhan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The objective of that meeting was not disclosed at that time. However, the office of Sudanese President of Sovereign Council, the day after the meeting, did not say more than: “On 3 February 2020, there was a meeting between al-Burhan and the Israeli Prime Minister in Uganda, and that this a step taken by al-Burhan from the position of responsibility for the importance of working diligently to preserve and maintain Sudanese national security, and to achieve the best interests of the Sudanese people”. Thus, the process of normalization with Israel was launched without logical introductions to prepare the Sudanese people for this huge event.
It wasn’t just the Sudanese people who were surprised by the decision to prepare for normalization – the Sudanese government was also surprised, and expressed that surprise by meeting that step with rejection. Therefore, the proof did not consult and notify the Council of Ministers to meet with the President of the Sovereign Council with the Israeli Prime Minister in Ainbi, Uganda. The government’s move seemed to absorb the expected anger at the announcement of the Netanyahu-Proof meeting because the government is aware in its subconscious and apparent mind of the seriousness of this measure. This is because there was not enough preparation for it, the sudden shift from putting Israel in the category of “enemy”, which reflects historical religious accumulations. Furthermore, it was not easy to move to the level of normalization. The Sudanese government was aware of the president’s move, otherwise why, only two days after the meeting, on February 5, 2020, it announced its agreement to accept Israeli aircraft through its airspace.
How did Sudanese political forces meet to launch the first step of normalization with Israel? Historically, it is well known that the laws of the parties in Sudan, their platforms, their electoral platforms, etc. completely devoid of reference to the possibility of normalization with Israel. Not only that, rather criminalizing it, and even the vast majority have been encouraging and supporting the Palestinian issue. In this sense, perhaps, have been emphasized by the forces of freedom and change, the political incubator for the transitional government, and one of the most prominent Sudanese political forces currently, for its refusal to normalize with Israel.
. The Sudanese Communist Party also condemned the Burhan-Netanyahu meeting, as did the Nationalist Umma Party headed by Sadiq al-Mahdi. The National Congress Party, which was banned a few months ago, considered that encounter as a betrayal of the divine Places. On the other hand, the Burhan-Netanyahu meeting was followed by popular demonstrations in Khartoum, rejecting normalization with Israel.
From mid-February 2020 to mid-August 2020, there was international and regional concern about the Corona pandemic. Sudan was no exception in this regard. Indeed the voice of the battle against this epidemic, and the issue of normalization is no longer mentioned only a few news here and there. Except when there was news about the death of Ambassador Najwa Kaddah al-Dam, the architect of the meeting between Al-Burhan and Netanyahu, tried an Israeli plane that landed at Khartoum airport. That was tentative to save her, but On May 27, 2020, she passed away.
On Wednesday, August 19, 2020, a decision was issued to relieve the official spokesperson of the ministry of foreign affairs. The director of information of the same ministry, on the back of remarks in which he said that his country looks forward to normalizing its relations with Israel. This ambassador seems to have been captivated by the secret nature of relations with Israel by the transitional government with its two components: military and civilian.
About a month or so later, on September 24, 2020, some regional media reports reported that Sudan had preliminary agreement to normalize relations with Israel, and that move was not a blank cheque. But rather it was on stipulated conditions by Sudan, perhaps the most important of which was the implementation of the package of demands made at the Abu Dhabi talks (which began on September 21, 2020). Similarly, negotiations on legislation to ensure that Khartoum would not be prosecuted in any future cases.
Two days after Sudan agreed for normalization (i.e., on September 26, 2020), the Sudan News Agency quoted Reuters as saying that Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdullah Hamduk had demanded that his country’s name be removed from the list of states sponsoring terrorism and normalizing relations with Israel. This was for the fact that his transitional government had no mandate to decide on normalization. But this request by the prime minister does not mean much in light of the American pressure sought by his government. In addition to the pressure of some Arab countries such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia, to achieve normalization as soon as possible.
On October 2020, the realities of the normalization agenda unfolded in the interim government’s chambers, and on the 2nd of this month, the Vice-President of the Sovereign Council acknowledged that Sudan wants relations with Israel, not normalization, to take advantage of its evolving potential. Sudanese foreign affairs minister-designate acknowledged that Khartoum’s relationship with Israel is still under discussion, and Sudan will do what its interests dictate.
It is clear from what has been described the extent of confusion and quivering, which surrounded the transitional government by taking a decision to prepare for normalization with Israel, to seek justification and marketing it. Although normalization is one of the issues that is not worthy of discussion in the agenda of a transitional government, in addition to this issue, a legislative council needs to legislate it, which is still unknown. The Government is aware above all that this normalization requires a lot of climate creation, but it needs to create the Sudanese personality and its awareness in the collective memory towards Israel. The good fortune of the Sudanese transitional government was the change that preceded it, which was necessary for it, and is still interacting with the data of the Sudanese political arena. This has led to the emergence of a new trend, which was not taken into account, consisting of youth, which brought about this change.
This current describes itself as rational and objective and believes that the issue of normalization must be discussed far away from religious emotions, and away from other emotional, religious trend. Moreover, this position dominated the scene for many decades and was based on religious and ethnic tendencies, which reject normalization. The recent rationality and objectivity believe that a new reading of the Sudanese perspective is needed, which considers itself to be hungry for normalization, and that it has paid a high price for its hostility to Israel. On the same token, the neighbors of Sudan and its Arab surroundings printed or on their way to normalization, and the stakeholders themselves (The Palestinians) have a close relationship with Israel.
In the concern of Sudan’s relationship with Israel, this trend indicates that history testifies the fact that Sudan has adopted Israel as a direct enemy by participating in direct and indirect wars against it (in 1948, 1967). However, this trend shows that the call for normalization, and standing behind it, does not in any way mean that it is in favor of the conduct of Israel. Again it does not mean that there will be an abandon to support the Palestinian people in obtaining their rights and establishing their own state.
Normalization with Israel: opportunities, challenges and a future scenario
With the policy of interests prevailing over the principles of international relations in Sudan after the December 2018 revolution, and with the emergence of a broad group, the exit and salvation of Sudan’s crises, since its independence from Britain in 1956
. The establishment of normal relations with Israel, the climate becomes conducive to normalization, what are the opportunities? What challenges are expected for the normalization process?
The most important opportunities for normalization are evident in the creation of the climate, and are based on a number of points, perhaps the most important they are:
1. Economic constraints, which has impoverished a high proportion of the Sudanese population, has been manifested in many crises in people’s daily lives, particularly in bread crumbs and fuel shortages, the increasing cost. In September 2020, the inflation reached 212%, and in time of the December 2018 revolution was around 60%.
2. The emergence of an anti-Arabism and Anti-Islam movement, in its view, as anti-normalization.
3. A wave of hatred for the political group of Islam, because of its reluctance to normalize and, in the opinion of some people, due to the failure of its experience to rule Sudan for three decades.
4. The cycle of normalization in the countries bordering Sudan, or those located in its Arab and regional surroundings, is complete or almost complete.
As for the most important challenges that are expected to face the process of normalization with Israel, they are:
1. The historical hostility towards Israel, which has been entrenched over generations and generations in the mentality of the Sudanese personality.
2. Risk of accelerating normalization, without thinking about the consequences, which may not be a solution to Sudan’s successive crises, especially the current economic problem.
The main strength of this normalization was that it could become a bridge to improve relations with the United States, the European Union in general, and international institutions. Thus breaking the blockade against Sudan, as well as removing Sudan from the U.S. list of support for terrorism, and exempting it from its $60 billion debt. Hence, the weakness is obvious and evident in the fact that there will be a deep rift in Sudan’s personal perceptions.
What is important, if the situation continues as it is today – normalization exists and will represent the de facto policy, which is necessary, by virtue of the readiness of the field for the local player (the transitional government, some of its parties, as well as the groups of rationality and objectivity, and the group that hates political Islam). And the readiness of the field for the external player (The United States, some western countries and institutions). And the readiness of the field for the regional player (neighboring countries with close ties to Israel, in addition to some Arab countries).
It is true that the scenario of immediate and complete normalization may be delayed for some time, owing to temporary arguments, such as the argument that the transitional government is not authorized in this matter, or on the grounds that there is no legislative parliament, or on the pretext of not linking normalization to improving the relationship with the United States. The truth is that these arguments, on their validity and their logic, remain analgesics, or apparently merely an involuntary act of the transitional government to deal with a reality, where the scene is not yet complete.