Sudan’s transitional government said the decision to normalize relations with Israel was a necessary move that will benefit the Sudanese people economically.
Speaking to the al-Hadath TV channel Sunday night, General Yassir Al Atta, a member of Sudan’s ruling Sovereign Council, said that normalizing relations was one of the conditions set by the U.S. government to remove Sudan from its list of countries that sponsor terrorism.
Atta said the decision will not hurt anyone in Sudan and was taken after lengthy discussions about protecting the interest of the Sudanese people.
“We were compelled to choose this and we know nothing will harm our people,” Atta said. “We have been fighting along our Arab sisterly countries on many war fronts since 1948 to regain our rights. But now, we have come to a conclusion that all the Arab nations are not in any form of war with Israel.”
Sudan joins Egypt, Jordan
Relations between Israel and many Arab countries have remained hostile for decades due to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which Palestinians want as land for a future state. Until this year, only Egypt and Jordan had made peace with the Jewish state.
Sudan’s justice minister, Nasruddeen Abdulbari, issued a statement on Saturday saying building ties with Israel is legal and falls within the mandate of the transitional government which is enshrined in the constitution. The transitional government was formed last year after the 30-year rule of Islamist President Omar al-Bashir.
Both Atta and Abdulbari said they believe improved relations with Israel will benefit Sudan economically.
Umma party supports move
Mubarak al-Fadil, chairman of the Umma party reform faction, also welcomed the move.
Speaking to VOA’s South Sudan in Focus program, al-Fadil said Sudan is an agricultural land and Israel has pledged to support Sudan with new agricultural technology which will boost local production.
“Sudan needs very much advanced technology in agriculture and irrigation, especially that Sudan is an agricultural country with vast arable lands amounting to 200 million hectares,” he said. “We only now cultivate 45 million hectares with very low productivity and high cost.”
Israeli adviser praises decision
A special adviser to Israeli Minister of Intelligence Eli Cohen echoed those comments, saying the deal will give Sudan access to advanced Israeli technologies in agriculture, medicine, and other fields.
Arye Shalicar, Special Advisor to the Minister of Intelligence, said Israeli and Sudanese officials and experts have been in negotiations for months to re-establish relations after several decades of belligerence.
“We believe it’s a win-win situation for both sides: Sudan is definitely a very big country strategically located in the heart of Africa, [and] is a relatively close neighborhood of Israel as well, just south of Egypt. So for us [it’s] a very important location or area that we would like to be friends with rather than enemies with,” Shalicar told VOA Monday from Israel.
Sudan was put on the U.S. state sponsors of terror list in 1993 because al-Qaida leaders including Osama bin Laden were given safe harbor in Sudan. Bin Laden lived in Khartoum from 1991 to 1996.
Al Fadil said now that Sudan will be off the list, Israel should work with its allies in Europe and other countries to support the transitional government in Sudan so it can rejoin the world financial system.
The normalization agreement which was brokered by U.S. President Donald Trump is the third such deal the president has mediated to establish relations between Israel and Arab countries after decades of hostility. Last month, the Jewish state signed normalization agreements with the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Bahrain in a White House ceremony.
The Israeli official said he is confident that relations between his country and Sudan will grow and benefit both countries and the region in terms of greater cooperation and security.
“It’s just a matter of time before both countries will join forces in various fields together with our new friends in the Gulf: Emirates and Bahrain and hopefully other countries in the region will follow.”
Shalicar said his government is aware that there’s opposition to the Sudan-Israel normalization deal inside Sudan.
“This is unfortunate but we understand that some people in the society — not just in Sudan but we see this in other countries and regions as well — they have been educated by radical preachers, often preachers with radical Islamic world views.”
Shalicar said opposition to the normalization deal inside Sudan will not deter the two countries from moving forward with their new relationship.
“In the end the Sudanese leadership is doing the right thing for the people of Sudan,” he said.