08:33 GMT24 September 2020
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    Although half a year ago the leaders of Israel and Sudan agreed to step up efforts that would lead to a normalisation agreement, not much has been done to pursue that goal. And a Khartoum-based analyst says, it is partially because of disagreements within Sudan's transitional government.

    Less than a week after Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the historic declaration that his country would soon sign a peace deal with the United Arab Emirates, reports have emerged that other countries might follow in the steps of Abu Dhabi and recognise the Jewish state. 

    One of such states was reportedly Sudan, relations with which have been dire for the better part of Israel's existence. 

    When Israel was established in 1948, Sudan sent assistance to confront the "Zionist enemy" and help Palestinian in their struggle against the newly- established state. 

    In 1967, during the Six Day War, Sudan hosted the heads of eight Arab states that issued a resolution that rejected any peace efforts with Israel.

    But decades later, that rhetoric of "no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel and no negotiations with Israel" has started to change, paving the way toward a more pragmatic approach towards the Jewish state.

    Thawing Ice

    The ice started to thaw in 2019, shortly after the coup d'etat that toppled former President Omar Al Bashir, who has been known for his hostility towards Israel. In February it finally melted when Sudan's new leader Abdel Fattah Al Burhan met with Prime Minister Netanyahu and agreed to step up efforts toward normalisation.

    However, half a year down the line, very little has been done to advance peace. Al Burhan has been focusing on a series of domestic problems, the primary example of which is Sudan's poverty and its high unemployment rate, which is expected to exceed 13 percent by the end of the year. Netanyahu, from his side, has entered a third round of parliamentary elections that will be followed by the long and laborious task of forming a government.

    Those problems haven't ceased. Al Burhan is still preoccupied with his country's economic difficulties and Netanyahu is still concerned with political turbulence. But as talks of another round of elections in Israel become louder, the PM might want to press ahead with a peace deal to score points for himself and his Likud party in the upcoming polls.

    In the not-so-distant past, this policy has proven itself. Shortly after Netanyahu announced the historic peace treaty with the UAE, Israeli surveys indicated a slight rise of Likud in the polls, although the number of seats projected remained lower than what the PM received in the last round of elections, which took place in March.

    Agree to Disagree?

    Now, however, Mohammed Amin, a Khartoum-based political analyst, who has been following the issue closely, says it will largely depend on the Sudanese government on whether to give Netanyahu a present that might score him more points with the Israeli public. 

    Although on Friday it has been reported that Israel's Mossad chief Yossi Cohen met with a high profile representative of the Sudanese military establishment "to talk peace"; Amin says his country seems largely "confused".

    One sign of that confusion, says Amin, is the fact that only a week ago, Sudan's foreign ministry's spokesman said his country was open to establishing full diplomatic relations with the Jewish state and predicted that a peace treaty between the two nations could be signed as early as the end of the year. However, a day after he made the dramatic comments, he was fired, with the MFA claiming he was not authorised to make any remarks without the approval of his bosses

    "Although Sudan has already started the process of normalisation with Israel and our airspace was opened for Israeli planes, the general feeling is that the government is largely confused and they don't really have a clear cut position on the issue."

    Part of the problem is the fact that Sudan's transitional government is comprised of military and civilian elements that at times struggle to come to terms on Sudan's key issues, and a peace treaty with Israel is one of them.

    Al Burhan and the military establishment he represents would like to go ahead with the deal. Apart from the fact that it would open Sudan's market to Israeli technologies that can improve the country's agricultural sector, the pact could also pave the way for the removal of Sudan from the US terrorist list, which means that the sanctions imposed on the African country would be removed too.

    It might inject billions of dollars as well. "Sudan badly needs money," explained Amin, referring to the fiscal deficit and inflation, that in the beginning of 2020 stood at slightly more than 61 percent.

    "That's why striking a deal with Israel might help Sudan get closer to the US and its big money resources and this in its turn might salvage the country's economy."

    Amin says that the public opinion is largely indifferent to the shaping deal, whereas the civilian apparatus of the government that now seems to have objections to it might change its stance in the near future.

    "Although the civilian element of the government has objected to Al Burhan's initiative, it wasn't a fundamental rejection. Their stance is simple. Being a transitional government, they say they don't have the right to decide for the country on such paramount issues as peace treaties and would rather wait for the general polls of 2020 and the formation of a new parliament."

    And until that happens, Amin says his country will probably continue hold talks with the Israelis, testing the "local and regional grounds" before making a dramatic move.

    peace, Israel, Sudan
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