Sudan’s Long Road to Peace with Israel

October 26, 2020 | Amnon Lord
About the author: Amnon Lord is an editor and columnist at the Israeli newspaper Makor Rishon and an editor at the online magazine Mida. His books (in Hebrew) include The Israeli Left: From Socialism to Nihilism (2003) and, most recently, The Lost Generation: The Story of the Yom Kippur War (2013).

On Friday, President Trump announced a normalization agreement between Sudan and Israel. Amnon Lord surveys the history of the African country’s relationship with the Jewish state—beginning with the former’s independence in 1956, when its government wished to establish diplomatic ties with Israel, but was pressured not to by Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser.

As an ally of Egypt, Sudan partook in the War of Attrition (1967-1970) and the Yom Kippur War, when it sent a brigade to the Egyptian front. One of the commanders of this brigade was an officer by the name of Omar al-Bashir, the recently deposed dictator of Sudan.

Yet, during Golda Meir’s premiership (1969-1974), Jerusalem made some successful overtures to the country:

Israel sent Mossad agents led by David Ben-Uziel to help the Christians in South Sudan, [which gained independence in 2011], defend themselves against genocidal campaigns. The Sudanese president Jaafar Nimeiry, who recognized the autonomy of South Sudan in the early 1970s, permitted Ethiopian Jews [in his country] to immigrate to Israel more than a decade later. He was also the only [leader] in the Arab world who supported former the Egyptian president Anwar Sadat when he made peace with Israel.

Thereafter the country increasingly turned toward Islamism and to Iran. In 2009 and 2012, Israel is thought to have carried out airstrikes against Hamas-related targets in Sudan:

[The] airstrikes, . . . which destroyed a terror base and a weapons convoy earmarked for the Gaza Strip via the Sinai Peninsula, . . . nudged the Sudanese more toward the American-Saudi axis; and made it obvious to its rulers that their alliance with global terror—chiefly with Iran—was ruining them. Sudan was an important base of operations for al-Qaeda, and the Sudanese government even armed al-Qaeda terrorists with diplomatic passports. The [recent] sea-change in this regard is absolute. Sudan, where an American ambassador was murdered in 1973 under orders from Yasir Arafat, and where the notorious terrorists Carlos the Jackal and Osama Bin-Laden found refuge, is now changing its colors.

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