Strategic Appreciation (121) – Zaytuna Center
The Palestinian issue was one of the main lines in the Sudanese foreign policy, and it did not enjoy the priority given to neighboring countries and to Arab and international relations in general, specifically with the United States, China, and the Gulf states. However, the policy of attribution followed by the successive Sudanese governments, made Sudan participate in important stages in the history of the Palestinian revolution, and this was through other countries, especially Egypt. In different periods, Sudan used to initiate some positions under the clause of self-defense, given the repeated Israeli attacks on the Sudanese sovereignty, and its high support for armed movements in southern and western Sudan.
The grinding economic crisis in Sudan, and the harsh US sanctions, have made the new fragile political system seeking to exit from it through the gateway of normalization with the Israeli entity. However, the path of normalization faces major obstacles due to the widespread popular opposition and even from within the civilian component of the transitional government, and the constitutional institutions have not been completed in Sudan. This makes normalization partial, and subject to gradual progress, based on the Sudanese regime’s response to the American-Israeli conditions.
First: Sudan’s position in the Palestinian issue:
The location of Sudan can be described in the map of the Palestinian cause as an arena for external support, and its support is usually through another intermediary state because of the territorial geographical separation from Palestine, which is represented in Egypt, and the maritime separation of Egyptian territorial waters from the southern Palestinian coast on the Red Sea. This assignment varied from political and diplomatic reference to military and security support, while the financial support is limited due to economic poverty. There are other important areas of support, represented in the educational support. By granting university and postgraduate education opportunities to hundreds of Palestinians annually in different periods, and there is the assignment of shelter, as Sudan received small Palestinian military and civil waves at different periods.
Sudan entered the direct support line without intermediary through the system of rehabilitation and training for the Palestinian resistance, and through the smuggling of weapons to it by sea and land through local tribal gangs in different stages of Sudan’s life after the 1967 war.
Second: The parties to the Palestinian relationship with Sudan:
Sudan opened its doors to the Palestinian parties with official representation at various levels. It recognized the legitimacy and authority of the Palestine Liberation Organization after the Oslo Agreement, as there is an old Palestinian embassy in Sudan, and the Palestinian resistance was allowed to open offices for it through media, popular, or research institutions, according to changing controls. It is based on a single philosophy in view of the pressures exerted on Sudan and the extent of the response to it. These offices have been closed repeatedly, permanently or partially, and this relationship flourished in some stages and developed into political and military support, while it worsened very much in other stages, especially in the last four years of the year. Omar rescue system, headed by Field Marshal Omar Hassan Al-Bashir.
Third: The Salvation System’s position on normalization:
Sudan remained classified among the countries affiliated with the axis of resistance throughout the rule of the salvation, and it publicly refused normalization at many stages of the life of the salvation, and yet the file of normalization began to be raised by some in the last years of the life of the Bashir regime. Whether the regime’s refusal to do so was related to principled or political reasons, the estimates indicated that there was no benefit to normalization, and that it would turn into a great burden that Sudan would not bear, which suffers from a great security and economic drain, especially since the Israeli strategy classifies Sudan as a strategic enemy because of its geographical location and its relationship. In Egypt, and that the Israeli behavior is characterized by severe hostility by supporting the rebel movements and inciting the permanent American Jewish lobby against Sudan.
Fourth: Sudan’s position in the Israeli strategy:
Since the beginning of the formation of the Israeli strategy during the era of David Ben-Gurion, the former Israeli Prime Minister, Sudan has become the object of Israeli targeting due to its being in the strategic southern depth of Egypt, and the trend has always been towards dismantling the relationship with Egypt, supporting civil wars, and tearing Sudan apart into countries and regions. They are in conflict, and make Sudan a permanent Egyptian focus of tension and anxiety, and weaken Sudan and prevent it from becoming an influential, central or central state in its African surroundings.
After the development of the Egyptian-Israeli relationship during the era of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, the Israeli strategy changed temporarily towards making Sudan a southern Egyptian attraction, to which the movement of immigration and work would head if Egypt was subjected to any political collapse or general disaster to prevent the trend towards the east, as is the case in most historical experiences Sudan should also be able to absorb the movement of displacement and migration in the event of the collapse of the densely populated Ethiopian state; As the Ethiopians eased to immigrate to “Israel”, which is closer to them than Europe and less expensive in illegal immigration, and they can claim that they are Falash Mura Jews.
This new strategy is still the subject of advanced discussion, and there is a link to this strategy on the condition that Sudan turn into an American strategic center of gravity. By establishing a strategic US military base in eastern Sudan on the Red Sea, it aims for rapid intervention in Africa and the Middle East.
Fifth: Justifications for normalization in Sudan:
The Sudanese transitional policy after the collapse of the regime of President Omar al-Bashir is characterized by extreme fluidity and disputes between the parties to the constitutional document between the military and civilian components, the multiplicity of influence and thinking platforms for the civilian component and the many differences within it, because it was a broad horizontal coalition that agreed on one common goal, which is to overthrow the regime, which was largely done. . This is what made Sudanese politics so fragile that it seeks support from its regional and international surroundings through the parties.
The biggest challenges facing the transitional phase are:
1. The challenge of the economy and the retreat of the state’s ability to provide for the people’s basic needs and necessities, including fuel, flour, medicine and basic services.
2. The challenge of US sanctions, with their executive and legislative levels, and the consequent international and economic isolation and economic collapse.
3. Challenging peace and stability of the civil system, stopping the bleeding of civil wars, and the proliferation of armed movements and their many external links and references.
4. Challenging the unity of Sudan and keeping it away from the specter of tearing apart and separating regions, and the neighboring occupation of some parts of Sudan.
5. Challenging the survival and cohesion of the military establishment, and not allowing its dismantling and replacement.
6. Challenging reconciliation and absorbing the forces of the former regime and the Islamists, who participated in the Sudanese revolution, and engaging them in the political transition.
The challenges facing the transitional phase, the intensity of the disagreement between the civil and military components in it, the inability of one of the parties to resolve them, the reluctance of regional and major countries to align with one side at the expense of the other, and the poor relations with the US Congress, which made the relationship with “Israel” a gateway to developing the positive relationship with the American administration And accelerate its slow system, smooth the relationship with the American House of Representatives and Senate, and tame the American Jewish anti-Sudan lobby in these institutions, with the aim of lifting US sanctions on Sudan, scheduling debts and returning to the global economic system.
It seems that the military component and part of the civilian component sought to reach the Israeli entrance, and the military component was able to arrive first, through a Sudanese military initiative, through the Ugandan gate and away from the parties interfering in the Sudanese issue. The relationship was opened first with the Israeli military intelligence and then to the Israeli prime minister’s office, and after about four months of negotiations and understandings on the basis of the relationship and its axes, a public meeting took place between Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, Chairman of the Sudanese Sovereignty Council and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Uganda in early February February 2020, and the Sudanese government headed by Abdullah Hamdok was not aware of this meeting before the announcement of it was leaked from Israeli sources, which caused a shock to the constitutional document partners, ruling the transitional phase.
Sixth: The positions of the Sudanese parties regarding the declaration of normalization:
The Sudanese military establishment appeared to be united in its position in favor of the Burhan-Netanyahu meeting, especially as it promoted it in the context of an urgent interest in which there is no other choice, while the constituents of the Forces of Freedom and Change appeared in a wide variation. The Baathist, Nasserite, Sudanese Umma Party, and Communist Party, in addition to the Islamic parties, declared their rejection of this meeting and its repercussions, while other parties and movements supported it, and most of the Sudanese armed movements supported it, most of which were open in relation with “Israel” previously, and even though the Prime Minister Abd God Hamdouk seems to understand this relationship and was trying to use it previously, but the opposition forces within Freedom and Change pushed him to be neutral in this issue in the media in front of the Sudanese street, while he clearly supported this in his meetings with the American administration, which showed him this position in numerous statements by its Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Mike Pompeo, then settled him and the forces supporting him to endorse the steps
Seventh: Upcoming levels of normalization:
The public meeting between al-Burhan and Netanyahu constitutes a clear case of political normalization that penetrated the state of rejection and the previous boycott, and formed a separation between boycott and normalization, and boldly broke the boycott barrier, and posed the following question: How will this relationship develop?
The Sudanese military side is moving with a balance that does not care about the political side much in it, as it knows that this file in its political side is not from its powers nor from the powers of the transitional government. In abiding by what Israel pledged to develop the Sudanese-American relations, lifting sanctions on Sudan, and the American commitment not to support projects to dismantle the state and the army; The military side believes that the high level of coordination between the two parties at the level of the specialized intelligence services and the first leaders in the specified files will be sufficient at this stage.
The Israeli side believes that the breakthrough has already occurred, and that the powerful side in Sudan is convinced of the viability and importance of the relationship, and therefore its development is a matter of time, but “Israel” seems to be in a hurry to increase the areas of cooperation that have been reached; Regarding the return of Sudanese refugees, and the opening of Sudanese airspace to Israeli aircraft, except for the “national” carrier, El Al. Netanyahu also wants to invest in the electoral relationship in the first upcoming Israeli elections, and he is not keen to make this a third gift to Donald Trump after the gift of normalizing the UAE and Bahrain, which is what made the United States agree to separate the path of normalization from the path of lifting sanctions after the consensual Israeli intervention. On it.
The official Sudanese side believes that normalization is a compulsory path that it was forced to follow after international isolation and the blockage of the roads leading to the lifting of sanctions that have burdened Sudan for four decades. Also, strong and influential Sudanese parties see that the normalization taking place is the result of American blackmail and a diminution of national sovereignty, and that there was no need for this link after the Sudanese revolution and the overthrow of Al-Bashir’s rule, and that the price of lifting American sanctions is something that has nothing to do with American-Sudanese relations, and that the Palestinian people He is exposed to the historical injustice of the Israeli occupation, and it is not the morality of revolutions to sympathize with colonialism, dictatorship, and occupation, and to draw interests with it at the expense of a brotherly people; And that this shows that the American sanctions were political because of the position on “Israel”, and that the lifting of sanctions on Sudan was to provide an opportunity for “Israel” To establish normal relations with Sudan, and enable it to deepen its presence there without fear of the restrictions of the American embargo; And that this normalization is an American-Israeli victory over Sudan, its history and principles, and that the Sudanese transitional leadership is unable to explain this procedure to its people and frankly with them in detail.
And the chances for successes of political normalization seem weak under the conditions of the transitional government, which does not allow it to take a decision of this size, without legislative institutions that bear its responsibility before the people, and without the presence of a popular supporter of it. The popular forces opposing this decision will move against it, and will add it to the many justifications calling for the overthrow of this government and its symbols. Supporters of the former regime will also use this normalization as a pretext to confirm their accusation of the new rule. That it is hostile to Islam and Arabism, that it is a Western project imposed on Sudan, and that normalization is an attempt to keep the transitional regime alive despite its economic death, its failure to manage the country, and its dependence on the outside.
But the most influential aspect of the possibility of the success of normalization in its early stages is the ability of normalization to dismantle the grinding economic crisis, and to provide the necessities and necessities of life for the Sudanese citizen. If not, the general environment that accepted this normalization under this justification will turn against it, which seems to be the strongest possibility for the failure of this normalization due to the depth of the economic crisis in Sudan and the magnitude of the global economic crisis due to the Corona pandemic, and Israel is not able to provide grants. Or large aid to Sudan without a comfortable financial return, especially since Sudan is not like rich Gulf countries. Israel is striving to normalize relations with it and is relying heavily on it to get out of its economic crisis as well, while Sudan needs large financial levers that Israel cannot. Bear it, just as the American and Israeli enthusiasm for normalization with Sudan will dim its luster as other poor Arab countries join the process of normalization, which will increase the American-Israeli burden, and it will change
One of the important aspects in this context is that Egypt, the strong neighbor of Sudan, which considers itself the holder of the moral jurisdiction over it, and that it is the strategic decision-maker in its fate, is not happy with this normalization and does not consider it a positive addition to it, especially since the justifications for normalization relate to it in the first place. The Sudanese-Israeli relationship is to be an opponent at the expense of Egypt and its influence, and to weaken its role in Sudan. Egypt will work to quickly restore its role after Sudan gets out of the American sanctions imposed on it, and it will try to replace “Israel” in communicating with the American administration regarding the management of the Sudanese file in the future as it was. Previously.
Eighth: The normalization level scenarios can be summarized as follows:
1. The first scenario: the level of partial normalization:
So that the issues on which the Burhan-Netanyahu meeting is based will be the main contents of the work until the end of the transitional period, and therefore there will be no complete political normalization, no embassies opening, no direct diplomatic representation, and perhaps an unstable technical presence; The Sudanese transitional government may resort to it by announcing approval of normalization, and delaying its approval until the legislative system is established.
2. The second scenario: the level of full normalization:
This is what the American administration insists on and the Netanyahu government is looking forward to, and Washington is pressing hard to reach this level, and based on that on the level of political blackmail related to the multiple levels of US sanctions, especially those related to congressional sanctions. So that some sanctions will be lifted and some will remain, to be gradually canceled, according to the Sudanese response.
3. The third scenario: freezing the normalization project:
There are still major forces in the Forces of the Declaration of Freedom and Change and major parties that reject normalization, and consider what happened to be an unacceptable transgression by the government and the military leadership, and they do not have a mandate from the people or the Central Committee of the Forces of the Declaration of Freedom and Change. In addition, the Islamic forces and their allies, which have been active recently against the backdrop of the economic decline, will work to escalate their opposition rhetoric and mobilize the street against this normalization.
When weighing the possibilities, it is difficult to talk about full normalization, especially in the transitional phase, and the incomplete constitutional institutions in Sudan. Therefore, normalization is often partial. It is subject to suspension, whether due to the escalation of opposition against it, or because of its poor economic consequences for the lives of the Sudanese.
Ninth: The impact of normalization on the Palestinian cause:
This exit is a continuation of the previous situation in which the relationship with the official Palestinian authorities and the opposition has declined to very normal levels, and perhaps to levels harmful to security, due to its desire to strengthen its American security relationship; However, the various Palestinian parties will view this normalization in terms of anger, because it came at a time when important Arab countries dissolved from the Arab initiative that pawns normalization with the establishment of the Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital and the return of refugees. This means that the Palestinian Authority has lost a new Arab position without this being positively reflected on the demands formulated by the Arab countries. The Palestinian resistance has lost an important support arena, which will push it to seek to compensate for this loss, and to search for new entrances to meet its needs that will not necessarily pass through the semi-official coordination as was previously the case.
It seems that the Israeli authorities will be keen to benefit from the Sudanese experience in dealing with the Palestinian resistance and its network of relations with it, and it is possible that this relationship will turn into an opportunity for Sudan to reconnect its relationship with the Palestinians with Israeli-American approval, so that Sudan plays an approximate role or an open back channel, far from The Egyptian interventions that cling to this file are tightly controlled, and this could lead to a limited growth of the relationship with some of the Palestinian resistance parties, which need other back doors for non-politicized communication with the Americans and the Israelis in some slow or stalled files.
In general, Sudan’s exit from the scene of support and support for the Palestinian cause will lead to great moral damage to this cause, but it will not have a significant impact on it, as the relationship with the Palestinians has not turned into a strong comprehensive alliance despite the strength of friendship and cooperation relations, and the level of cooperation It depended on the level of American pressure on Sudan and its interactions, and this relationship between Sudan and the Palestinian resistance was often shaken and disconnected, but it was flourishing after any Israeli targeting of Sudan or a strong Israeli military campaign on Palestine, and then it soon returned to its normal levels.
It is unlikely that the political relationship with the Palestinian Authority will change because of this normalization, as the Sudanese assertion will continue that this normalization will not affect Sudan’s principled position on the rights of the Palestinian people and the call for the implementation of United Nations resolutions, which is the language shared by all who initiated normalization.
Sudanese normalization was not a demand or choice, but rather a necessity and a response to pressures, or perhaps it was employing foreign programs in the context of revolutionary change, accompanied by US blackmail; Major forces in government and the opposition still reject normalization and consider it a diminution of national sovereignty and that it must be eliminated. This means that there is an opportunity for Palestinian action to continue communicating with the Sudanese forces at all levels, stabilize some of the existing interests in Sudan, restore some of what was lost during previous years, reconnect with parties and popular forces and assign their roles in supporting the Palestinian cause, confronting normalization in the media and politically and showing its risks Sudan should, in the medium and long term, warn against the activities of normalization forces and their external agendas, and make clear that the development of Sudanese-American relations does not necessarily mean Sudan’s involvement in normalization and its heavy risks and burdens on Sudanese national security and Sudan’s strategic interests. Bearing in mind that Sudan is still under the whips of American legislative sanctions, and it is still a long way to go in fully lifting these sanctions.
* Zaytuna Center extends its sincere thanks to Dr. Osama Al-Ashqar for preparing a draft of this estimate.