The Electronic Intifada / April 8, 2021
The Sudanese cabinet voted to abolish a law forbidding diplomatic and business relations with Israel on Tuesday, reversing six-decade long policy.
The office of Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok announced the decision on Twitter, affirming in the same breath “Sudan’s firm stance towards the establishment of a Palestinian state within the framework of the two-state solution.”
Declaring support for the moribund two-state solution is a routine cop-out used by Arab and European governments to deflect from their complicity and inaction as Israel continues to violently colonize Palestinian land.
The decision needs to be approved by Sudan’s sovereign council – its interim legislature – before it can go into effect.
The day before the Sudanese cabinet agreed to repeal the boycott law, Hamdok and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke on the phone.
Blinken assured Hamdok of “the importance of Sudan’s role in achieving stability in the region,” Hamdok’s office stated.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the pair discussed US support for the “transitional government’s efforts to advance the peace process” – without specifying what that refers to.
Neither briefing on the phone call mentioned Israel.
During his confirmation hearings in January, Blinken heaped praise on the Trump administration’s efforts to secure normalization deals between Israel and various Arab states, despite Israel’s continued denial of Palestinian rights.
“I applaud the work that was done to push forward on normalization with Israel,” Blinken told senators.
“It makes Israel and the region safer. It’s a good thing, and yes, I would hope that we can build on that as well.”
Sudan’s transitional government agreed to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel last October, as part of a larger deal to bring it firmly into the American fold.
Formal treaties are expected once Sudan forms a permanent government, but Israeli officials have made visits to Khartoum in recent months.
US President Donald Trump announced at the time of the agreement that he would remove Sudan from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism in exchange for $335 million in compensation for American casualties of al-Qaeda attacks.
Blinken confirmed on 31 March the receipt of the funds from Sudan.
Blinken called the payment the beginning of “a new chapter” between the two countries.
While Blinken’s statement does not mention Israel, Sudan’s agreement to make the payment in exchange for its removal from the list has been perceived as a primary motivation for normalizing relations with Israel.
A Sudanese government spokesperson revealed last year that the country came under “heavy pressure” from the United States to normalize ties with Israel in exchange for Sudan’s removal from the US terrorism list.
“It was said clearly [that] this is linked,” Sudan’s information minister Faisal Mohamed Salih told Iran’s Press TV correspondent Ahmed Kaballo.
“‘If you want Sudan to be delisted from the [US list of state sponsors of terrorism], then you have to normalize the relationship with Israel.’ It was a very difficult situation,” he said.
There is little indication that the US strong-arming of Sudan has changed under Biden.
Intimidation and incentives
Sudan was one of four Arab states to agree to normalize relations with Israel during Trump’s last year as president.
The other three were the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco.
The Trump administration used a mix of intimidation and incentives to achieve some of these deals.
The Biden administration appears to be carrying the same torch.
Israeli journalist Barak Ravid reported that Mauritania was close to normalizing relations with Israel and that it had “hoped to get economic incentives in return,” but Trump left office before a deal was reached.
Ravid said the Biden administration hopes to broker similar normalization agreements “while securing achievements of its own through new deals.”
“Several of the newly established relationships between Israel and the four countries of the Abraham Accords are accelerating in their own right,” an unnamed US official told Ravid.
“The US will continue to encourage that dynamic.”
Mauritania previously established diplomatic relations with Israel in the 1990s, but broke them off in 2010 in protest of Israel’s attacks on Palestinians in Gaza.
Israeli media reported in February that Mauritania was slated to be one of the countries to receive COVID-19 vaccine doses from Israel as part of an effort by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to curry favour with governments around the world.
Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada