Sudan will become the third Arab nation over the past two months to normalize ties with Israel.
The Sudan-Israel accord continues the trend among Arab countries to advance ties with the Jewish state, even without a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
President Donald Trump announced the agreement on Oct. 23 at the White House. According to a joint statement released by Israel, Sudan and the United States, the two countries will “end the state of belligerence between their nations.”
Along with Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, Sudan is now the fifth Arab country to have diplomatic relations with Israel.
“The State of Israel and the Republic of Sudan have agreed to make peace,” Trump said. “For many, many years, they’ve been at odds, to put it nicely, and didn’t normalize their relations. … This will be the third country where we’re doing this — and we have many, many more coming. They’re coming at us hot and heavy in the coming weeks.”
Jared Kusher, Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, also spoke at the White House about the Sudan-Israel agreement.
“Today is another great example of what is possible when you have strong and smart American leadership in the Middle East and throughout the world,” said Kushner, who is viewed as an architect of Trump’s Middle East policies. “For those who follow the history of this conflict, the significance of this cannot be overstated enough.”
The statement also noted that the countries will “begin economic and trade relations, with an initial focus on agriculture.” In the coming weeks, the statement says, they will meet to discuss “agriculture technology, aviation, migration issues and other areas.”
Whether or not the two nations will establish full diplomatic relations still remains unclear.
“The Arab-Israeli conflict is moving towards an end,” said Brian Hook, the top State Department official who helped broker the deal, at an Oval Office presentation.
Sudan has been ruled by a Sovereignty Council, led by military leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, since a military coup last year deposed longtime Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who was subsequently convicted of corruption.
Al-Bashir presided over the country during the Darfur ethnic conflict, which involved what the International Criminal Court has deemed war crimes by the Sudanese government.
Earlier in the day, Trump informed Congress of his intent to remove Sudan’s 27-year designation as a state sponsor of terrorism, which reportedly is part of the agreement.
Along with Iran, North Korea and Syria, Sudan is currently one of only four nations designated as a state sponsor of terrorism. Countries on that list face such restrictions as a ban on defense exports and sales, as well as American foreign assistance.
Sudan will get new leadership in 2022, when the state’s agreed-upon transition period ends. The north African country’s state religion was Islam until earlier this year.
In recent weeks, the UAE and Bahrain have also launched fast tracks to open up diplomatic affairs, trade and tourism with Israel, but Sudan is especially significant because it is by far the largest of the three countries, in terms of land mass and in population.
Sudan is also symbolically significant because its capital, Khartoum, is where the Arab League met in 1967 after the Six Day War and issued its “three no’s” to reject any engagement with Israel whatsoever and to continue the state of war.
Like the UAE and Bahrain, Sudan has not been in a war with Israel and enjoyed a degree of clandestine ties with the Jewish state over the years. In 1984, the Sudanese authorities assisted in an airlift of Ethiopian Jews to Israel.
In February, Sudan’s leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan met openly in Uganda with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
There are also thousands of refugees from Sudan’s military conflicts living in Israel.
Israel strongly objects to the sale, as do Democrats in Congress.
Bahrain signed a number of cooperative agreements with Israel this week and the UAE to travel between the countries without a pre-arranged visa. A government-linked Bahraini institute on Oct. 22 signed an agreement with the U.S. State Department to combat anti-Semitism and delegitimization of Israel.
Ron Kampeas writes for the JTA global Jewish news source. Jmore staff contributed to this report.