Israeli Cabinet Minister Visit To Sudan: An Important Starting Point But More Lies Ahead

On January 25, an Israeli Cabinet Minister visited Sudan as part of ongoing efforts to normalise relations between both countries. The initial normalisation deal happened in October, which was headed under the Trump administration. This is part of a broader effort by the United States in normalising relations between Israel and other countries in the Middle East and North Africa region.

Israeli Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen, who led this trip, said that this effort “lays the foundations for many important collaborations that will assist both Israel and Sudan as well as security stability in the region,” according to Reuters. He also reports that both countries will soon “finalize a diplomatic deal to normalise relations at a signing ceremony in Washington in the next three months.” Reuters mentions that there was no immediate comment from Sudan, but its civil government has previously said that a diplomatic deal can “only take effect once approved by a transitional legislative council that is yet to be formed.” For instance, in this visit, officials from both countries discussed removing a boycott law from 1958 that prevents Sudanese individuals from visiting and engaging with Israel, Axios reports.

This would allow for greater cooperation between both countries on various aspects, including the economy, national security, and politics, and there is already movement on these fronts. Members of the delegation “met with Sudan head of state General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Defense Minister Yassin Ibrahim” for talks on “diplomatic, security and economic issues” along with “deepening intelligence cooperation” according to Asharq Al-Awsat. This continues to lay the groundwork for the diplomatic deal set to happen in the “next three months” and the overall improvement of relations for both countries.

Last year, Sudan “joined the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Morocco in normalising relations with Israel in U.S.-brokered deals,” and that is expected to continue under the new U.S. administration, according to Reuters. These continuing efforts are key in stabilizing relations in the region between Israel and regional neighbours, which have been fragile and, in some cases, nonexistent. Axios reports that similar to its counterparts in the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, Sudan signed the Abraham Accords declaration, another important step in establishing cooperation and greater economic activity among the countries involved.

While these are all key developments, they are simply a starting point. What comes next is as important as establishing new relations, which is maintaining them. This may be easier with some countries but given the general history between Israel and its neighbours, it is easy for some to later question the purpose of these relations or bring up decades-old conflicts that have been a sticking point for those involved. It can be easy to fall down that path, but it does not have to be that way. Ensuring transparency and constant communication are some ways countries normalising relations with Israel can look past older issues and focus on new deals, agreements, and the future. Given the U.S. role in these deals, annual or biannual meetings with the national leadership of Israel and its partners also ensures any emerging conflicts between a set of countries are resolved before these compromise relations.

Similar to neighbouring countries, relations between Israel and Sudan have not been friendly for several decades. Events like the creation of Israel, the 1967 war, and the Israel/Palestine conflict have contributed to a general lack of dialogue between both and other neighbouring countries. While it has been as such for many years, the U.S. has sought to change that, with the most recent efforts taking place during the Trump administration, such as the deal between Israel and Sudan in October along with Morocco’s deal. The signing of the Abraham Accords between Sudan and Israel took place on January 6. What comes next is a potential diplomatic deal in the “next three months” that the U.S. is likely to oversee and assist with given the Biden administration’s expressed interest in continuing these efforts.

Both countries, with assistance from the U.S., are heading in the right direction towards normalised relations. However, there must still be ongoing dialogue and cooperation to ensure the newly established relations grow and remain stable. Annual/biannual meetings or summits headed by the U.S. will ensure that there are ways that countries that signed a normalisation deal with Israel can cooperate with it on various fronts. This can also serve as a way to resolve conflicts between any countries and ensure the robustness of the new relations. While the future path for Israel and Sudan is promising, it is vital to know how to help support relations in ways that the parties involved can agree with, thus helping these remain robust many years afterwards.