Does U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to remove Sudan from the State Department’s list of terror sponsors pave the way for the African nation to normalize relations with Israel?
Some say this could be the case — even this week.
“Trump’s announcement is part of a wider agreement that is expected to include moves from Sudan toward normalizing relations with Israel. Sudanese, Israeli and U.S. officials say more steps toward such a deal are expected to be announced later this week,” Axios reported.
Trump, who is up for reelection in just two weeks, ballyhooed the announcement on Twitter: “GREAT news! New government of Sudan, which is making great progress, agreed to pay $335 MILLION to U.S. terror victims and families. Once deposited, I will lift Sudan from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list. At long last, JUSTICE for the American people and BIG step for Sudan!”
Sudan’s pledge to pay reparations to American terror victims and their families is part of several overtures it has made since its transitional government replaced dictator Omar al-Bashir who is in jail and could face charges of genocide and crimes against humanity in an international court.
On Sunday, Sudan’s Prime Minster Abdalla Hamdok promised to cooperate with the International Criminal Court which is investigating war crimes in Darfur.
“This historic visit is a testimony to the total reform of the new Sudan,” said Hamdok, who welcomed ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to his country this week.
The United States has had active talks with Sudan over the past couple months and have pushed for a normalization deal with Israel. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made the first-ever direct flight from Israel to Sudan in August and also encouraged Khartoum to make peace with Israel. In exchange, Sudan is expected to receive an aid package from the U.S. — and possibly also the United Arab Emirates — on the condition that it “would agree to normalize relations with Israel.”
Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman al-Burhan, head of Sudan’s military wing, is said to be in favor of normalization while Hamdok is thought to be opposed. He appears to be softening to the idea now.
“Thank you so much, President Trump! We very much look forward to your official notification to Congress rescinding the designation of Sudan as a state-sponsor of terrorism, which has cost Sudan too much,” Hamdok wrote on Twitter. “This Tweet and that notification are the strongest support to Sudan’s transition to democracy and to the Sudanese people. As we’re about to get rid of the heaviest legacy of Sudan’s previous, defunct regime, I should reiterate that we are peace-loving people and have never supported terrorism.”
Last week, ALL ARAB NEWS reported that an Israeli-based TV news network, i24, said the decision has already been made.
“The Sudanese Sovereignty Council decided to go ahead with normalizing the country’s ties with Israel, sources close to the Sudanese leadership told i24NEWS,” the network’s website reported. “A source close to the council told the Arabic-language edition of i24NEWS that after a heated discussion late on Wednesday, the council decided to yield to US pressure and forge formal ties with Israel.”
Sudan would become the fifth Arab country to normalize ties with Israel after Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
Sudan has been at the top of the rumor mill since the August announcement of peace between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain. Several interviews with public officials have revealed a general warming to such a move.
Others have been less welcoming of the idea. Sudan’s leading governmental agency in charge of interpreting Islamic law issued a fatwa saying ties with the Jewish state remain forbidden.
But Sheikh Abdel-Rahman Hassan Hamed, a senior cleric from a rival group of Islamic scholars, found their ruling problematic and issued his own fatwa arguing the exact opposite.
In an interview with The Times of Israel, the head of Sudan Scholars Organization’s fatwa department, said that, “As a general principle, from an Islamic standpoint, there is no opposition to sulh (treaty) or salaam (peace) with Israel. On the contrary, sulh and salaam are virtues that are to be earned, without exception.”
“First, normalization is a peace contract. Peace contracts and declarations of war are legitimate policy issues that are unrelated to Islamic doctrine,” he said in his ruling. Rather, questions of war and peace are decided by the political leaders based on the national interest, he argued. “If the ruler sees weakness among the Muslims, as is our case these days, especially in this country, where we are suffering from famine, fragmentation, strife and internal wars… and if he sees it is in our interest to forge peace, then he must do it.”
He explained that normalization is a modern concept, and must be interpreted as sulh and salaam.