Expansion of the Abraham Accords: Israeli- Sudanese Relations

  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

Jess Diez,
Director of Educational Programs & Managing Editor

February 7, 2023

On Thursday, February 2, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen “secured Sudan’s agreement to sign a normalization deal” during a one-day trip to Khartoum, Sudan. Once Sudan has formally transitioned from military role to a civilian government, the two countries will participate in a signing ceremony later this year. This signing would mark Sudan, one of Israel’s historic adversaries in the region, as the fourth Arab country to join the Abraham Accords, normalization agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Morocco.

Relations between Sudan and Israel began progressing two years prior under the facilitation of the United States. Explained in Middle East Eye, “in January 2021, Sudan formally agreed to establish ties with Israel in a quid pro quo for the United States, removing it from its list of ‘state sponsors of terrorism,’ but efforts to normalise ties had stalled.”

The trip to Khartoum included conversation beyond diplomatic normalization. Written in Haaretz, the Sudanese government stated that the meeting aimed at establishing productive relations with Israel and strengthening the horizons of joint cooperation between Khartoum and Tel Aviv in the fields of agriculture, energy, health, water and education, especially in the security and military spheres.”

The signing of the agreement is set to take place later this year in Washington DC, following the Sudanese transfer of power to civilian rule. Cited in News Central Africa, Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Lior Haiat, who was present in the delegation, expressed positive feedback: “We definitely look forward to signing the agreement and then to having diplomatic representatives both in Israel and in Sudan.”

In addition to progressing Israeli-Sudanese relations, this normalization may propel each country’s personal agenda as well. Explained in Arab News, “the announcement could help Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu deflect attention from a recent burst of violence with Palestinians and widespread public anger over his plans to overhaul the country’s judicial system — which critics say will badly damage Israel’s democratic system of checks and balances. For Sudan’s ruling generals, a breakthrough with Israel could help convince foreign countries, including the United States and the UAE, to inject financial aid into the struggling economy. Sudan remains mired in a political stalemate between a popular pro-democracy movement and the country’s powerful armed forces.”

Cohen met with additional Sudanese officials such as General Mohamed Hamadan Dagalo, commander of Rapid Support Forces, Sudan’s largest paramilitary group. Written in Israel Hayom, although no follow up statements were publicized, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “appeared to hint that something was in the works… ‘We are continuing to expand the circle of peace,’ he said, noting that Chad, which borders Sudan, opened a new embassy in Israel earlier in the day. ‘We will continue to expand and deepen the circle of peace with additional countries, both near and far,’ added Netanyahu, who returned to office in December. During his previous 12-year term as premier, his government made it a priority to forge ties with formerly hostile countries in Africa and the Arab world.”

However, some Sudanese parties have expressed opposition towards these enhanced relations. For example, Al Mayadeen discussed the stance of the Broad Islamic Current, a movement composed of 10 Sudanese Islamic parties: “The Current announced its affirmation of rejecting any relationship with Israel in light of its occupation of Palestine territories and desecration of Muslim sanctities. It also rejected what is happening now in terms of complications in the Sudanese political scene, making clear that such complications were made specifically to pass these corrupt deals. It also drew attention to the other countries around Sudan, which normalized ties with Israel, saying that ‘they have reaped nothing but wildfire.’”

Multiple journalists have questioned the likelihood of Sudan peacefully transitioning to a civilian government, a necessary step for the fortification of the Abraham Accords. Stated in Sudan Tribune, Sudanese military leader Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan assured Cohen that “after the signing of a political agreement and the formation of a coalition government, ‘then they will hand over the reins of power to this government.’ He added that the restoration of a civilian government is crucial for Sudan because it would pave the way to establish good relations with the United States and western countries.”

  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

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