Sudanese group backing normalization with Israel holds first conference

The first conference of the “Popular Initiative for Normalization with Israel” is held today in Sudan, in another sign that the Sudanese transitional government may be considering advancing ties with Israel.

The US has reportedly been pressuring Sudan to normalize with Israel in exchange for removing Khartoum from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism. Sudan’s presence on the list subjects it to crippling economic sanctions and limits the impoverished country’s access to international credit.

“Normalization simply means to make our relations with our countries, including Israel, normal… since the 1960s, Sudan has been imprisoned by certain ideological concepts,” says Najm al-Din Adam Abdullah, who runs the fledgling organization.

Sudan has long had strained ties with the Jewish state. In 1967, the Arab states congregated in Khartoum to announce a policy which would come to be known as “The Three Nos”: no peace with Israel, no negotiations with Israel, no normalization with Israel.

“We believe that Sudan has remained in the same place since The Three Nos, and has not been able to move forward,” Abdullah says, adding “such a relationship with Israel has cost us enormously. It put us on the list of state supporters of terror.”

“The Israel taboo… has left Sudan a prisoner of history,” he concludes.

A previous attempt to hold a pro-normalization press conference was dispersed by authorities, a member of the Sudanese-Israeli Friendship Association told The Times of Israel at the time. That the current conference was allowed to go forward may signal increasing support for open ties with Israel by the country’s military leaders.

Sudan is currently ruled by transitional Sovereignty Council run by Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who has reportedly been generally supportive of ties with Israel. His civilian counterpart Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, however, has been far more hesitant, telling reporters in September that a “deep dialogue” in Sudanese society is necessary first.

— Aaron Boxerman

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