On February 2, Israel and Sudan agreed on the text of a normalization agreement, finalizing a process that was set in motion in the fall of 2020 but subsequently frozen. The symbolic significance of Africa’s third-largest country joining the Abraham Accords is great, writes Yechiel Leiter, as it was in its capital, Khartoum, that after the Six-Day War the Arab League issued its famous declaration of: “no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it.” But, Leiter explains, the consequences go far beyond symbolism, and Israeli-Sudanese cooperation can have positive repercussions for Israel’s security, Sudan’s political and economic development, East Africa as a whole, and global great-power competition. Among them:
Sudan has for years been a transport depot for weapons sent by Iran to Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists in Gaza. . . . Growing normalization with Israel will significantly augment military cooperation between the two countries. It will strengthen intelligence-gathering and sharing capabilities and empower the Sudanese military to contend with and ultimately curtail the arms trafficking running through its ports and territorial waters. Such collaboration can potentially cut off one of the primary sources of weapons from the Iranian-backed terrorist groups of Gaza.
The strengthening of Sudan’s military cooperation with Israel to help secure its maritime borders and protect its sovereignty is a regional, indeed an international, interest, not just an Israeli one.
There are those in the West, and in the Biden administration in particular, who want any normalization with Sudan to be contingent on the country’s full and complete transition to civilian governance. This is a mistake with potentially calamitous consequences. Africa is not America and Sudan is not Switzerland. Cultures differ, as do the historical processes of political development. The differences should be respected; to do otherwise is to condescend and worse.
Sudan is now saying “yes,” and we dare not say “no.”