US President Donald Trump announced on Friday at the White House that Sudan and Israel had agreed to normalize relations, in a move condemned by the Palestinians as a “new stab in the back.”
US officials said Trump, who is seeking re-election on November 3, sealed the deal in a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Sudanese Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok and Transitional Council Chairman Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.
“The leaders agreed to normalize relations between Sudan and Israel and end the state of hostility between their countries,” said a joint statement issued by the three countries.
Trump added that he expected the Palestinians and other countries, including Saudi Arabia, to agree to closer ties with Israel in the coming months.
Khartoum is now the third Arab government to normalize relations with Israel in the past two months, after the UAE and Bahrain.
Trump said, “This is going to be the third country that we’re doing – and we have many, many more coming.”
A fresh stab in the back
Palestinian Liberation Organization official Wasel Abu Yusef, speaking in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, said Sudan’s decision to normalize relations with Israel was a “new stab in the back” for the Palestinians.
Abu Yusef said: “Sudan’s joining others to normalize relations with the Israeli occupation state represents a new stab in the back of the Palestinian people and a betrayal of the just Palestinian cause.”
He said that the African country’s decision to follow the UAE and Bahrain “will not undermine the Palestinians’ faith in their cause and the continuation of their struggle.”
In the besieged Gaza Strip, Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for the Palestinian movement, a traditional ally of Sudan, told Reuters news agency that the decision was a step in the “wrong direction.”
The Trump administration has sought to push deals between Israel and the Arab countries as part of its drive to reach the so-called “deal of the century” to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – and garner support among the future US president’s evangelical Christian base. The next election.
Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office, Trump asked Netanyahu – who was on the loudspeaker – if he believed Joe Biden, his Democratic presidential rival who he called “Sleepy Joe,” could have helped broker such a deal.
Netanyahu replied: “One thing I can tell you is that we appreciate the help for peace from anyone in America, and we greatly appreciate what you have done.”
Netanyahu welcomed what he called the widening “circle of peace” and the beginning of a “new era.”
Trump’s decision earlier this week to remove Sudan from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism paved the way for the deal with Israel, marking a breakthrough in the Republican president’s foreign policy as he seeks a second term behind Biden in opinion polls.
Trump announced on Monday that he would remove Sudan, which the United States designated a state sponsor of terrorism in 1993, from the list once he deposited the $ 335 million he had pledged to pay in compensation.
A huge win today for the United States and for peace in the world. Sudan agrees to a peace agreement and normalization with Israel! With the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, there are three Arab countries that have done so in just a matter of weeks. More will follow! pic.twitter.com/UHB8H6oaZc
– Donald J Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 23, 2020
Since then, Khartoum has put the money into a special escrow account for victims of the Al Qaeda attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.
Shortly before the announcement of the Israeli-Sudanese deal, Trump notified Congress of its “intention to officially cancel Sudan’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism.”
The White House described the move as a “pivotal turning point” for Khartoum, which is seeking to emerge from decades of isolation.
Speaking at the White House on Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said it was “absolutely appropriate” for the United States to raise that designation, given Sudan’s recent steps to transition to a civilian-led government.
According to the joint statement, Israel and Sudan plan to open economic and trade ties first, with an initial focus on agriculture.
A senior US official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said issues such as the formal establishment of diplomatic relations would be resolved later.
Pompeo added that he expects to see more trade between the United States and Sudan as well.
Alan Fisher of Al Jazeera, in a report from Washington, DC, said that while removing Sudan from the list is not on the top of the list of priorities for most American voters, Trump sees the normalization agreement as a political win.
“It’s hard to get moving on a foreign policy issue, but it’s definitely something the Trump campaign can preach over the next 11 days as we approach November 3,” Fisher said.