Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad condemned Sudan on Friday for agreeing to move ahead with normalizing ties with Israel, with Khartoum apparently breaking with decades of support for Palestinian terror groups.
Israel and Sudan committed on Thursday to completing a normalization agreement in the near future following what Foreign Minister Eli Cohen described as his “historic diplomatic visit” to the Sudanese capital Khartoum.
Hamas condemned the move, which “contradicts the general Sudanese stance that is against the normalization of ties with the Israeli occupation state and supports the just Palestinian cause.”
In a statement, it called “on the Sudanese leadership to backtrack on this decision that contradicts the interests of the brotherly people of Sudan and would only serve the Israeli occupation’s agenda.”
A spokesperson for Islamic Jihad described the move as “a disgrace for an Arab country of the stature of Sudan.”
During the three-decade rule of Islamist general Omar al-Bashir, Sudan was one of the staunchest supporters of Hamas and other terror groups, but since his ouster following mass protests in April 2019, the policy has been dropped.
Israel was once in a state of war with Sudan, after the African nation sent troops to fight against the nascent Jewish state in the War of Independence in 1948, but in January 2021, the two countries agreed to normalize relations as part of an agreement with the US that removed Sudan from its list of “state sponsors of terrorism.”
Cohen said upon landing back in Israel that the plan was for a full agreement to be signed by the end of the year — though only once Sudan’s current military leadership has transferred power to a civilian government, a process that is still unfolding.
A statement released by the Sudanese Foreign Ministry after a meeting between Cohen and his Sudanese counterpart Ali al-Sadiq said that “It has been agreed to move forward towards the normalization of relations between the two countries.”
Cohen, then the intelligence minister, led the first official Israeli delegation to Sudan in 2021, but ties were never formalized despite that agreement due to internal political instability in Sudan.
Thursday’s talks touched briefly on “achieving stability and peace between Israel and the Palestinians,” the Sudanese statement said, but did not elaborate further.
During the visit, Cohen met with Sudan’s President of the Transitional Sovereign Council, General Abdel Fatah Al Burhan, and other senior officials, and discussed the necessary steps required to sign a final agreement between Israel and Sudan in the near future.
In accordance with the plan, the signing ceremony of the peace agreement “will take place in a few months’ time in Washington after the establishment of a civilian government… as part of the ongoing transition process in the country,” Israel’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement to the press following Cohen’s visit.
In his remarks to the press, Cohen said the agreement would also help Israel establish diplomatic relations with other African nations, and bolster the Jewish state’s existing ties with other countries on the continent.
Sudan, an Arab League member, had for decades maintained a rigid anti-Israel stance under longtime autocratic president Bashir, who was ousted in April 2019 following mass protests against his rule.
Khartoum was removed from the US blacklist in December 2020 after 27 years of crippling sanctions which strangled Sudan’s economy under Bashir.
In January 2021, Sudan signed a declaration paving the way to normalizing ties with Israel, and in April that year, it approved a bill abolishing a 1958 boycott of the country.
Relations were stymied, however, as political turmoil in Sudan deepened following an October 2021 military coup led by Burhan, derailing the post-Bashir transition to civilian rule.
Sudan’s agreement to normalize relations with Israel upended a longstanding policy after the 1967 Six Day War that saw Israel conquer swathes of territory, including the West Bank from Jordan, the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, and the Golan Heights from Syria.
Arab leaders gathered in Khartoum after the defeat, and signed a resolution that became known as the “three nos.”
Egypt and Jordan would later recognize Israel through peace treaties signed in 1979 and 1994 respectively, followed decades later by the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco as part of the Abraham Accords.