Prominent political factions in Sudan have rejected a deal brokered with the help of the United States to take steps to normalise ties with Israel.
The agreement was sealed on Friday in a call between U.S. President Donald Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Sudanese transitional leaders.
It would make Sudan the third Arab country to set aside hostilities with Israel this year, though some Sudanese officials have said it should be approved by a yet-to-be formed transitional parliament.
The issue is sensitive in Sudan, formerly a hardline critic of Israel, dividing opinion among military and civilian leaders heading a transition after former President Omar al-Bashir was toppled following months of protests in April 2019.
The government has said establishing ties with Israel should be treated separately from Sudan’s removal from the U.S. state sponsors of terrorism list, a move U.S. President Donald Trump said would proceed days before announcing the deal on normalisation.
Sudan, mired in economic crisis, was offered help with debt relief, food security and economic development in the statement announcing normalisation.
Among those criticising the deal was the National Consensus Forces Alliance, a leftist coalition and key component of the Freedom and Change (FFC) alliance that emerged from the uprising against Bashir.
“The transitional power intentionally violates the constitutional document and makes steps towards normalisation with the Zionist entity, breaking with the principles and commitments of Sudan’s Three Nos,” it said in a statement.
The “Three Nos” refers to a commitment made in Khartoum by Arab states in 1967 to “no recognition of Israel, no peace with Israel and no negotiations with Israel”.
The Popular Congress Party, an Islamist faction that backed Bashir, also condemned the move. On Thursday, veteran opposition leader Sadiq al-Mahdi threatened to pull the support of his Umma Party from the government if it went ahead with the move.
Some Sudanese say they could accept normalisation if it is in Sudan’s economic interests, and there have been no street protests against the deal. Others object.
“Sudan must support Palestine, and this is a position of principle and religion,” said Ahmed Al-Nour, a 36-year-old teacher.
Cartoonist Khalid Albaih depicted a Sudanese protester being trampled by Trump and Netanyahu, reflecting a view widely shared on social media that the deal ran counter to revolutionary aims and was made without public consultation.
In related news Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday that an Israeli delegation will travel to Sudan in coming days after the two countries agreed to take steps to normalise ties.
The agreement, brokered with the help of the United States and announced on Friday, made Sudan the third Arab government to set aside hostilities with Israel in the last two months.
“An Israeli delegation will leave to Sudan in the coming days to complete the agreement,” Netanyahu said at a news conference.
It was unclear, however, how long it will take for an accord to be completed. The military and civilian leaders of Sudan’s transitional government have been divided over how fast and how far to go in establishing ties with Israel.
The Sudanese premier wants approval from a yet-to-be formed parliament to proceed with a broader, formal normalisation, and that may not be a quick process given the sensitivities and civilian-military differences. It is unclear when the assembly will be created.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision this week to remove Sudan from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism paved the way for the accord, marking a foreign policy achievement for the Republican president as he seeks re-election on Nov. 3, trailing in opinion polls behind Democratic rival Joe Biden.
Trump sealed the Israel-Sudan agreement in a phone call with Netanyahu and Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and Transitional Council Head Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, in which he said: “Do you think ‘Sleepy Joe’ could have made this deal?”
Netanyahu, reliant on bipartisan support for Israel in Washington, responded haltingly: “Well, Mr. President, one thing I can tell you, is … we appreciate the help for peace from anyone in America.”
Asked at Saturday’s news conference whether he was embarrassed by Trump’s question, Netanyahu said: “It is very difficult to embarrass me,” and stressed he was grateful to Trump for his policy toward Israel. “I hope this policy will continue. I don’t want to make any prophecies about the election results.”