A Sudanese minister said any possible normalization of ties between Sudan and Israel would be “no big deal” and that Palestinians bear a large responsibility of the blame in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In an interview last week on Sudanese television, Mubarak Al-Fadil Al-Mahdi, Sudan’s minister for investment, said any decision to establish ties with Israel should be based “on the interests of Sudan” and not emotions, while adding that the “Palestinians themselves have normalized their relations with Israel.”
“I think that people are more invested in this than reality warrants,” he said in reference to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to a translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute.
“The entire issue is very complex. It’s not black and white. The Palestinians themselves meet with the Israelis. They coexist with the Israelis, earn their living there, and get their electricity from them. These people live together,” he added.
Al-Mahdi said the Palestinians bear “much of the responsibility” for their loss of lands and displacement.
“I think that the Palestinians share much of the responsibility for what has happened to them. They sold their lands and caused many problems. The Arabs made grave mistakes by rejecting the Partition Plan and other resolutions,” he said.
He also blamed the “Palestinian cause” for holding back developmental progress in the Arab world and said it has been used by leaders to maintain a grip on power.
“I believe that the Palestinian cause has delayed the progress of the Arab world, and has been exploited by the Arab regimes to oppress their peoples, under the guise of the struggle for the sake of Palestine,” he said.
Al-Mahdi said despite the harsh criticism leveled on Arab regimes over normalization with Israel, the Palestinians themselves maintain ties with the Jewish state.
“They are meeting with the Israelis. Even Hamas. Disagreements or not, they are meeting with them. They have the Oslo Accords and other agreements,” he said.
“The Arab countries think about their own interests. In Egypt, the Israelis developed the citrus agriculture. They introduced drip irrigation.”
“I think we have been swept away by our emotions without realizing it. Those Palestinians, everywhere, do anything in their power to have you fired. Ask any Sudanese working in the Gulf or anywhere, and he will tell you that whenever he meets a Palestinian, that Palestinian feels nothing for him,” he said.
Al-Mahdi also praised Israel’s “moral values” and “democratic regime.”
“The Israelis are Westerners. They were ‘imported’ from America, Russia, Europe, and so on. They have the moral values of Westerners,” he said. “They operate scientifically. They have a democratic regime, their presidents stand trial and go to jail… They have a transparent regime, whether you agree with them or not.”
His interviewer asked: “You’re not planning to get some Israeli companies here to develop citrus for us, are you?”
To which al-Mahdi replied: “Well, I think that technology has no nationality. You shouldn’t care where you get that technology from.”
Hamas, the Islamist terror group that rules Gaza, denounced al-Mahdi’s comments: In a press release last Wednesday, it slammed his “proactive and racist remarks” which it said undermined “the Palestinian people, Hamas and our valiant resistance.”
Last year, the Haaretz daily reported that 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.
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 last January 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 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 Communications Minister Ayoub Kara (Likud), Sudan and Israel do maintain covert relations.