US President Donald Trump announced Friday that Sudan has agreed to make peace with Israel, making it the third Arab state to normalize ties as part of US-brokered deals since August.
During a call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Sudan Sovereign Council president General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, Trump brought reporters into the Oval Office and announced: “The State of Israel and the Republic of Sudan have agreed to make peace.”
A senior Trump aide, Judd Deere, specified that Sudan and Israel “have agreed to the normalization of relations.”
“This is one of the great days in the history of Sudan,” Trump said, adding: “For decades, Sudan has been at a state of war with Israel. They have… boycotted Israeli goods. There was no relationship whatsoever. Today’s peace agreement will enhance Israel’s security and end Sudan’s long isolation from the world.”
“For much of recent history, the people of Sudan were ruled over by brutal Islamic dictatorships,” Trump noted. “It was the home of Osama bin Laden, a place of terror, genocide, and many other tragedies.” Today, “new democracy is taking root” and “the Sudanese transitional government has demonstrated its commitment to combating terrorism.”
“It’s just a new world,” Netanyahu said over the phone as Trump took questions from the White House press corps in the Oval Office. “This truly changes the region. It changes the lives of all our peoples for the better.”
“We are expanding the circle of peace so rapidly with your leadership,” Netanyahu could be heard telling Trump, who responded by saying. “There are many, many more coming.”
“We very much look forward… to establis[hing] strong political and economic relations between our nations and the rest of the world,” said Hamdok.
“Thank you Mr. President Trump, Thank you Mr. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mike, [Secretary of State of State Pompeo], thank you because you have stood with us from the beginning,” said al-Burhan.
Sudan also confirmed the deal. “Sudan and Israel agreed to normalize their relations, to end the state of aggression between them,” state TV said, reading a joint statement between Sudan, Israel and the United States. It was not specified when or even whether Israel and Sudan would open embassies in each other’s countries.
Netanyahu appeared to remain on the phone longer than the Sudanese leaders and took several questions from reporters.
Providing his analysis of the latest development, Netanyahu said, “I do see an enthusiasm from most countries in the world, from most people in the world across the political divide. Yeah, Iran is unhappy, Hezbollah is unhappy, Hamas is unhappy, but most everybody else is very happy.”
Trump was asked whether Israeli and Sudanese leaders would be invited to Washington for a signing ceremony akin to the one held last month with Netanyahu along with the foreign ministers of the UAE and Bahrain after those respective countries agreed to normalize ties with the Jewish state.
“We will have them along with some other countries that you’ll be hearing about coming, probably simultaneously,” Trump responded. “Then ultimately we’re going to have a big reunion at the end where everybody’s here and everybody’s gonna be signed. We expect Saudi Arabi is going to be one of those countries.”
Trump also took a dig at Joe Biden, his opponent in the November election saying: “Do you think Sleepy Joe could have made this deal, Bibi?”
“Uh… one thing I can tell you is we appreciate the help for peace from anyone in America,” Netanyahu replied.
Trump: “Do you think Sleepy Joe could have made this deal, Bibi, Sleepy Joe?”
Israeli PM Netanyahu: "Uh … well … Mr. President, one thing I can tell you is we appreciate the help for peace from anyone in America." pic.twitter.com/LU02tEOXtK
— The Recount (@therecount) October 23, 2020
Netanyahu remained on the line as reporters continued asking questions. One of them pressed the prime minister for his thoughts on Trump’s prediction that Iran would be included in a broader regional peace deal stemming from the recent normalization agreements.
Netanyahu paused for a moment before responding. “Well… I spoke in the American Congress, I didn’t say I was opposed to any deal, I said I was opposed to that deal,” he said, referencing his 2015 address to a joint session of Congress during which he harangued the Obama-negotiated Iran nuclear deal.
“I think that if a new deal is offered…it would be welcome. I think that will only happen if Iran faces strong opposition to its aggression of the kind [pushed] by you Mr. President. If you’re soft with Iran, you’re not going to get peace with Iran. If you’re strong against Iran and prevent it from achieving nuclear weapons then I think they might come around to a better deal,” he added.
As the call was ongoing, PLO official Wasel Abu Youssef released a statement calling the agreement “a new stab in the back for the Palestinians,” while Hamas called it a “step in the wrong direction.”
The deal with Sudan will include aid and investment from Israel, particularly in technology and agriculture, along with further debt relief. It comes as Sudan and its transitional government teeter on the edge. Thousands have protested in the country’s capital Khartoum and other regions in recent days over dire economic conditions.
In a video statement released shortly after the announcement, Netanyahu said Israeli and Sudanese teams would soon meet for talks on “wide-ranging cooperation, including agriculture, trade and other sectors important to our citizens.”
Netanyahu also said that Sundanese airspace was now open for Israeli flights, which would shorten journeys from Israel to Africa and South America.
Sudan’s civilian prime minister, Abdalla Hamdok, thanked Trump on Twitter without mentioning recognition of Israel — a step he had earlier said he was not empowered to take.
“We’re working closely with the US administration & Congress to conclude the SSTL removal process in a timely manner,” Hamdok said, referring to the list of state sponsors of terrorism.
“From 3 NO’s to 3 YES’s,” tweeted Israel’s ambassador to the US Ron Dermer. “In 1967, the Arab world infamously declared in Sudan’s capital no recognition, no negotiation and no peace with Israel. Today, Sudan joins the UAE and Bahrain as the 3rd Arab country to make peace with Israel in 2020.”
From 3 NO’s to 3 YES’s:
In 1967, the Arab world infamously declared in Sudan’s capital no recognition, no negotiation, and no peace with Israel. Today, Sudan joins the UAE and Bahrain as the 3rd Arab country to make peace with Israel in 2020.
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— Amb. Ron Dermer (@AmbDermer) October 23, 2020
Recently, the United States brokered diplomatic pacts between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Jordan recognized Israel in the 1990s, while Egypt was the first to sign a peace deal in 1979.
Netanyahu has made it a priority to forge ties with formerly hostile countries in Africa and the Arab world in the absence of any progress with the Palestinians during his more than a decade in office. The deal also is aimed at unifying Arab countries against their common adversary, Iran.
These recent recognitions of Israel have undermined the traditional Arab consensus that there can be no normalization with Israel before the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. The Palestinians say the recognitions amount to betrayal, while Israel says the Palestinians have lost what they have seen as their “veto” over regional peace efforts.
Trump earlier on Friday signed a waiver to remove Khartoum from the State Department’s blacklist of state terror sponsors.
That move was initially announced by Sudan’s ruling body, which called the step a “historic day for Sudan and its glorious revolution.”
“President Donald J. Trump has informed Congress of his intent to formally rescind Sudan’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism,” the White House said. “Today represents a momentous step forward in the United States-Sudan bilateral relationship and marks a pivotal turning point for Sudan, allowing for a new future of collaboration and support for its ongoing and historic democratic transition,”
Trump announced his intention to sign the waiver on Monday, saying he would go through with the move after Sudan followed through on its pledge to deliver $335 million to compensate American victims of past terror attacks and their families. Sudan transferred the funds the next day.
The money is meant for victims of the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania by the al-Qaeda network while its leader, Osama bin Laden, was living in Sudan.
“By finally serving justice for the American people, President Trump was able to achieve what previous presidents could not – the resolution of longstanding claims of victims of the East Africa embassy bombings, the attack on the USS Cole, and the murder of USAID employee John Granville,” the White House said. “This is a significant achievement for the President and his Administration and brings a measure of closure to many to whom it has long been out of reach.”
Sudan’s presence on the terror list — along with Iran, North Korea and Syria — subjects it to crippling economic sanctions and limits the impoverished country’s access to international credit.
Congress now has 45 days to approve the measure.
Sudanese officials confirmed on Thursday that a senior US-Israeli delegation flew to Sudan on a private jet on Wednesday to wrap up the deal that would make Sudan the third Arab country to normalize ties with Israel this year.
Amid claims that a deal with Sudan could be announced within days, two government sources who spoke with Reuters said Hamdok has agreed, in principle, to normalize ties but not immediately — conditioning the move on ratification by a still non-existent transitional parliament.
Sudan is on a fragile path to democracy after a popular uprising last year led the military to overthrow longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir. A military-civilian government rules the country, with elections possible in late 2022.
It remains unclear when a transitional parliament will be formed amid negotiations between the civilian and military parts of the transitional government.
Netanyahu and Burhan in February held a landmark meeting in Uganda.
While Sudan does not have the influence or wealth of the Gulf Arab countries, a deal with the African country would be deeply significant for Israel.
Sudan hosted a landmark Arab League conference after the 1967 Six-Day War where eight Arab countries approved the “three ‘no’s”: no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel and no negotiations.
In 1993, the US designated Sudan a state sponsor of terrorism, in part for its support of anti-Israel terror groups, including Hamas and Hezbollah. Under al-Bashir, Sudan was believed to have served as a pipeline for Iran to supply weapons to Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip. Israel was believed to have been behind airstrikes in Sudan that destroyed a weapons convoy in 2009 and a weapons factory in 2012.
For its part, The Brookings Institute, a Washington-based think-tank, warned recently that the debate about Israel ties “has ignored the fragility of Sudan’s political transition.”
It warned that “if normalization is seen as resulting from exploitation of Sudan’s economic and humanitarian desperation, it will be even more polarizing among the public [and] accelerate the erosion of support for the transition.”