Israelis need to realize that the situation in Sudan is very different from the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
The deeply symbolic value of normalization with Sudan should be clear to anyone familiar with the history of the Israel-Arab conflict.
As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in his initial statement following the announcement of a third Arab state establishing ties with Israel: “In Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, in 1967, the Arab League adopted its three ‘No’s’: ‘No to peace with Israel, no to recognition of Israel and no to negotiations with Israel.’”
“However,” Netanyahu added, “today Khartoum has said, ‘Yes to peace with Israel, yes to recognition of Israel and yes to normalization with Israel.’”
The excitement is understandable. Unlike the UAE or Bahrain, this is a country where the hatred of Israel was clear for decades. It was a way station for Iranian arms going to Hamas and Hezbollah until fairly recently; Israel repeatedly bombed Sudan to stop the weapons from reaching their destinations.
Does this peace agreement, and now the Abraham Fund, serve an additional American foreign policy interest in another part of the world?
The arrival of the first-ever official government delegation from the United Arab Emirates in Israel this week came with an announcement that the countries, along with the US, were launching the Abraham Fund.
The Jerusalem-based fund that has been established with a commitment from the three participating states will mobilize over $3 billion in investments. It is meant “to identify and initiate strategic projects with a high developmental impact, including those that catalyze economic growth, improve standards of living, and create high-value, quality jobs,” the Abraham Fund said in a statement.
US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin had a message for the reporters on the first El Al flight from Israel to Bahrain this week: More of US President Donald Trump means more normalization between Israel and Arab and Muslim countries.
“We are very hopeful there will be other announcements,” he said. “Our expectation is, obviously, that President Trump wins and this continues… There is a lot more in the works.”
Would a Trump loss mean the end of the wave of normalization with Israel?
Mnuchin’s answer was: “I surely hope not.” But the question remains.
UN arms embargo on Iran was meant to expire on Sunday, October 18, but in August the US activated “snapback sanctions,” a mechanism in the 2015 Iran deal that would cancel its “sunset clauses” lifting various sanctions on the Islamic Republic. In other words, the US made sure the arms embargo would not expire – and no other country countered that move during the month in which that was possible.
Since the US left the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the deal is known, in 2018, the other parties to the agreement say the US does not have the authority to reinstate sanctions, and they will view the embargo as lifted on Sunday. However, the US argues that sanctions and the snapback are part of UN Security Council Resolution 2331, which lists the US specifically as a party, and not just the JCPOA.
All of this is to say that next week there could be a showdown between Russia and China, which want to sell Iran weapons, and the US, which has been using its economic might to enforce sanctions on the regime for the past two years and announced further measures last month.
February 2013. Eighteen-year-old Jewher Ilham headed to the airport in her home city of Beijing, together with her father, Ilham Tohti. The two planned to make their way to Indiana University, where Tohti was invited to be a visiting scholar. Ilham planned to accompany him and spend three weeks in Bloomington.
Ilham was looking forward to the experience, but she didn’t know that the day she would get on that plane would change her life – or that up to the present time, she would not see her father again.
Ilham and Tohti, 50, are Uighurs, members of a Turkic-speaking, mostly Sunni Muslim minority group in China. Tohti, an economist who lectured at universities, researched relations between Uighurs and Han, the majority Chinese ethnicity. He advised the government to build more hospitals and schools in Xinjiang, where Uighurs are concentrated.
But perhaps most importantly, he established the website “Uighur Online” in 2006, a forum for discussion of issues important to his community, and advocated for regional autonomy laws in China.
An explosive interview with Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan on Saudi-owned Al Arabiya has made the kingdom’s position on the Palestinians murkier than it has been in the six weeks since the United Arab Emirates and Israel announced they were normalizing ties.
In the aftermath of the peace agreement, the Palestinians let the world know that they are furious and feel betrayed. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called normalization a “stab in the back of the Palestinian people,” though he later apologized at the UAE’s demand.
Some eyebrows were raised in Khartoum in the last few weeks as the terms for American aid in the country’s revival after the overthrow of tyrant Omar al-Bashir last year came to light.
Sudan wants to shake off its state sponsor of terrorism designation, which blocks access to foreign funding it needs to keep its new government stable and able to foster democracy, as well as $3 billion in debt relief and investments in its weak economy.
The US would also like Sudan to pay a $335 million settlement for harboring the terrorists who bombed US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 and the USS Cole destroyer in 2000, while Congress would pass a bill giving Khartoum immunity from future legal claims on other past terrorist attacks – including, controversially, 9/11. That legislation is currently tied up in Congress.
And the Trump administration has brought another demand into the mix: for Sudan to fully normalize ties with Israel.
Sometimes, the obvious also needs to be stated, as former prime minister Menachem Begin famously said. Which is why it should be noted that most Israelis support peace with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
Israelis know that our country has long been cut off from the rest of the region, and that two countries seeking ties with Israel because doing so will be beneficial to them is a big thing and a positive thing.
Polling bears this out, with Channel 12 finding that 76.7% of Israelis thought the UAE deal was the right thing to do, and this crossed societal lines between Jews and Arabs.
Why does this obvious statement need to be made again?
US Ambassador David Friedman talks about the US role in ushering in peace between Israel and the UAE.
US Ambassador David Friedman was one of the key players in composing the Trump administration’s “vision for peace” between Israel and the Palestinians. And a casual observer may say that all that work over the past few years has been scuttled now that Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria is suspended in favor of peace with the United Arab Emirates.
But Friedman argues that the work was not for naught – far from it. The Trump peace plan was a key milestone in the process of ushering Israel-UAE ties from secret to open and official.
It’s clear that Israelis have no time or patience right now for the theatrics of a ceremony on the White House’s South Lawn while wondering how they’re going to be able to make a living.
AdvertisementWhen Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, disembarked from the El Al plane that landed at Joint Base Andrews outside Washington, DC, it was a scene that had been repeated many times during his years as prime minister. The couple walked on a red carpet down the stairs from the plane and waved for the cameras.
But one thing was different: They were both wearing masks over their mouths and noses.
Technically, they didn’t need to. For most of their descent from the Boeing 777, they were well over two meters away from anyone not in their family unit.
But with all of Israel set to go into a lockdown four days later on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, this was no time to get technical.