News Analysis: Uncertainties weigh on Israel-Sudan normalization after arrest of Sudanese PM

2021-10-26 15:36:11 GMT2021-10-26 23:36:11(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

by Keren Setton

JERUSALEM, Oct. 26 (Xinhua) -- Israel and Sudan were supposed to finalize the normalization process in the near future under the framework of a series of diplomatic agreements between Israel and Arab nations.

However, uncertainties loom after Sudan's transitional government was dissolved and Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok was arrested by the military on Monday.

Earlier on Monday, Chairman of Sudan's Sovereign Council Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan declared a state of emergency across Sudan, and dissolved the transitional sovereign council and the government. The decision was made hours after Hamdok, members of the Transitional Sovereignty Council's civilian component and several ministers were arrested by joint military forces.

"The normalization effort between Israel and Sudan is something that will have to be evaluated," said U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price in a briefing late Monday. The Unite States has been behind the normalization efforts that came as part of the diplomatic agreements between Israel and Arab nations.

The United States is highly critical of the sudden events in Sudan and hence halted its emergency assistance to Sudan and put plans for a White House signing ceremony with Israel on hold.

Israeli public broadcaster Kan 11 quoted an unnamed Sudanese official as saying that the normalization efforts would not be affected by the developments. Hamdok was supposed to travel to Washington D.C. for the signing of the agreement.

As part of the process in which the government in Khartoum agreed to normalize ties with Israel, the United States had removed Sudan from the list of countries designated as "state sponsors of terrorism."

For Israel, the agreement with Sudan is critical.

"The relations are a cornerstone for Israel's security and national interest," said Yonatan Freeman from Department of Political Science of Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

"Sudan is a huge country that has impacted Israel in terms of refugees and its links to terrorism. Israel believes in the end that the more successful and developed Sudan is, the more it will distance itself from countries like Iran. A vacuum in Sudan could be used by Iran," he said.

"For Israel, the opening of Sudan and other African countries was very important," said Haim Koren, Israel's first ambassador to South Sudan and a lecturer at Reichman University.

Sudan and Iran were close allies until a few years ago, positioning a hostile position towards Israel. Israel considers Iran its arch-enemy. For decades, Sudan was a center for Palestinian militant organizations operating against Israel.

Israel has reportedly conducted several airstrikes in Sudan in recent years against weapons convoys for Iran-sponsored militant organizations operating against it.

"As soon as Sudan stopped actively and directly assisting Iran, a major threat was neutralized in Iran's war against Israel," Koren said.

After the 1967 Mideast War that was fought between Israel and several Arab countries, Sudan hosted an Arab League summit in its capital Khartoum. In a pivotal moment for the Arab-Israeli conflict, Arab leaders called for no recognition, negotiations or peace with Israel.

"Normalization with Sudan is part of a greater shift in the region," said Freeman.

Just last month, authorities in Sudan seized assets belonging to the militant group Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip and operates against Israel. Arab media recently reported that Sudanese military and defense officials held a secret visit to Israel. Earlier this year, Israel's intelligence minister visited Khartoum.

According to both Freeman and Koren, the Sudanese military has a vested interest in maintaining and even upgrading ties with Israel. However, the U.S. opposition to the power struggle in Sudan could put a dent in those plans. Enditem