Palestinians say Sudan-Israel normalization meeting is a ‘stab in the back’
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Palestinians say Sudan-Israel normalization meeting is a ‘stab in the back’

After Netanyahu, Sudanese leader Burhan agree to bring countries closer, senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat says development a ‘blatant’ departure from Arab Peace Initiative

Palestine Liberation Organization Secretary-General Saeb Erekat speaks at the J Street National Conference,  in Washington, October 28, 2019. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)
Palestine Liberation Organization Secretary-General Saeb Erekat speaks at the J Street National Conference, in Washington, October 28, 2019. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

The Palestinian leadership condemned a meeting between the leaders of Israel and Sudan in which the countries agreed to shelve their longstanding emnity and start normalizing ties, calling it a “stab in the back.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a secret meeting in Uganda with Sudanese leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan on Monday, marking a dramatic shift in ties just days after Sudan joined the rest of the Arab League in rejecting a US peace plan for the region.

“This meeting is a stab in the back of the Palestinian people and a blatant departure from the Arab Peace Initiative at a time when the administration of [US] President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu are trying to liquidate the Palestinian cause,” said Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, in a statement carried on official news agency WAFA.

The Arab Peace Initiative, put forward in 2002, calls for normalization between Israel and Arab states only if it withdraws from the West Bank and East Jerusalem, as well as agreeing to absorb the return of Palestinian refugees. It was endorsed by the 22-member Arab League.

A peace plan released by US President Donald Trump last week — which has been rejected by the Palestinians, but largely welcomed by Israel — envisions a “united Jerusalem” as the capital of the Jewish state while allowing outlying neighborhoods of East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. The plan further enables Israel to extend sovereignty to the Jordan valley and its settlements in the West Bank, while nixing the return of Palestinian refugees to Israeli territory.

Erekat also condemned Uganda’s announcement, made alongside the Israel-Sudan development, that it will consider opening an embassy in Jerusalem.

Erekat called on all members of the African Union, which includes Uganda, to uphold their previous decisions regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a way that will see the establishment of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Netanyahu on Monday met with the transitional leader of Sudan, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, during a whirlwind visit to Uganda.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) is welcomed by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni at the State House in Entebbe, Uganda, February 3, 2020. (Sumy Sadurni/AFP)

Netanyahu and Burhan met secretly in Entebbe at the residence of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and agreed to gradually normalize relations, a senior Israeli official told The Times of Israel, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The meeting marked a sharp turnaround for the two countries, once sworn enemies and still technically at war. Sudan — a Muslim-Arab country in northeastern Africa — has recently moved away from Iran’s influence over the latter’s involvement in Yemen, and ousted longtime dictator Omar al-Bashir a year ago.

During the visit Museveni told Netanyahu that he would look into the possibility of opening an embassy in Jerusalem, and the Israeli leader suggested that Israel reciprocate by opening an embassy in Kampala.

Netanyahu said he was hoping they could move ahead on the embassies “in the near future.”

Since Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the American embassy there in 2018, Netanyahu has called on other countries to follow suit.

While a number of leaders have expressed support for opening an embassy in Jerusalem, only the US and Guatemala currently have full missions in Jerusalem.

Moving an embassy to Jerusalem is highly contentious. Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital, while Palestinians view East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

On Saturday, the Arab League unanimously rejected the Trump peace plan.

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