Israel said to encourage Western ties with Sudan

Israel said to encourage Western ties with Sudan

Jerusalem reportedly seeks to boost Sunni alliance to undermine Iranian influence, sees Khartoum as potential friend

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir addresses the National Consultative Council in the capital Khartoum, October 21, 2014.  (AFP/Ashraf Shazly)
Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir addresses the National Consultative Council in the capital Khartoum, October 21, 2014. (AFP/Ashraf Shazly)

Israel is trying to drum up support for Sudan within the international community, after the African country, which has faced severe criticism for its human rights record, severed its ties to Iran. Israeli and American diplomats met last week to discuss the issue, the Haaretz daily reported Wednesday.

On August 28, US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon visited Jerusalem for meetings with Israeli officials. According to the report, one major focus of meetings in the Foreign Ministry was the possible rebuilding of US ties with Sudan.

US-Sudan relations have been strained since 1967 when Sudan broke off ties in the wake of the Six Day War. In 1997 the US imposed comprehensive sanctions against Sudan due to its human rights violations and ongoing support of international terrorism.

Jerusalem until recently was also wary of Khartoum, which was traditionally seen as close to Tehran. However, in January, Sudan joined Sunni Bahrain and Saudi Arabia and severed its ties with the Islamic Republic. At the time, the country also appeared to make overtures toward Israel.

Sudan had been hostile to the Jewish state since gaining independence from Britain in 1956, claiming that Israel occupies Arab lands. However, speaking on January 14 about an American move to demand Sudanese normalization of ties with Tel Aviv as a precondition for lifting sanctions on Khartoum, Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour said Sudan was open to the idea.

“We don’t mind studying any such proposal,” he said, according to Sudanese reports.

In January, Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben Dahan (Jewish Home) told The Times of Israel that Jerusalem was interested in establishing ties with as many countries as possible, including Sudan.

MK Yehuda Glick, a member of the coalition Likud party, on Wednesday condemned Israel’s reported support for Sudan despite its atrocious human rights record, saying it was incompatible with Zionist values.

“This report is very troubling and should trouble anyone for whom Zionism is important,” he tweeted. “We must ensure that our policies are based on concern for human rights.”

In the past Sudan has allegedly served as a way station for the transfer of Iranian weapons to the Hamas terrorist group in Gaza. Israel has reportedly intercepted and destroyed transfers of weapons from Sudan bound for Gaza.

However, since it broke ties with Iran, Sudan is no longer perceived by Israel as a threat, but rather as a potential ally.

Israeli officials have said in recent years that common interests with Sunni Arab countries also opposed to Iran’s nuclear ambitions could open the door to forging new ties. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has long hailed an unspoken alliance between the Jewish state and ostensibly moderate Sunni Arab countries.

According to Deputy Minister of Regional Cooperation Ayoub Kara (Likud), Sudan and Israel do maintain covert relations.

Thousands of Sudanese asylum seekers live in Israel.

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