The shockwaves resulting from the 2-hour meeting between Lt. General Abdel Fatah al-Burhan Chairman of the Sovereign Council and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are slated to have far reaching consequences domestically and in the country’s foreign relations.
First and foremost Sudan-Israeli relations is going to be one of factors considered by Washington when it decides to start the process of delisting Sudan from the list of states sponsoring terrorism (SST).
On the face of it the delisting process is straight forward. It requires Khartoum and Washington to agree on a mutual program with specific benchmarks, then the American side will take an in-depth, several months review to assess and see whether Sudan has complied and is no longer supporting any terrorist activities. Once that assessment is completed in a satisfactory way, the administration then notifies the Congress, which will have 45 days to block the move; otherwise the recommendation will pass.
But given the complications of Sudan case that was tied with Darfur, compensations for families of those killed in the two American embassies in Nairobi and Dar esSalam as well as destroyer Cole, it is very easy to expect any of the Congress members, given the Israeli influence there, to link any of these various issues with Israel.
Former President Barak Obama came to know about the Israeli influence in the Congress the hard way, when Netanyahu used the Congress platform to attack the Iran nuclear deal without even bothering to pay a courtesy visit to Obama at the White House. And that is why Obama said once that it is easier for an American president to address the Israeli Knesset and criticize Israel there, but he can’t do the same with the US Congress.
The timing of the meeting between Al-Burhan and Netanyahu that came on the heel of the Trump peace deal on the Middle East brings the issue of normalizing relations between Khartoum and Tel Aviv to the fore. After all the deal needs some support from any Arab country and Khartoum, known for its three Nos seems to be the most suitable candidate. It was in 1967 that Khartoum hosted the famous Arab summit following the disastrous defeat of Arab armies then and came with decisions: no to recognizing Israel, no to negotiating and no peace with it. It looks very lucrative to come more than half a century later to have the very Arab capital that carried the motto of the three Nos to be the first to engage publicly with an Israeli leader, who managed to win the support of Washington for the most radical and pro-Israel peace deal.
However, more important is what the meeting has revealed regarding the domestic front and the way various sets ups of the transitional period are functioning. The public exchange on whether the prime minister was notified about the trip before it took place does not augur well for both sides in the government and the sovereign council.
Aside from the obvious question on how the two operate, which underlies a more significant question on the relationship between the military and the civilians, who are sharing the responsibility of the transitional period given the outcome of the uneasy alliance that toppled the previous Ingaz regime headed by former President Omar al-Bashir.
Though the meeting brought to the table the thorny issue of powers and whether the supreme council, which was supposed to carry only ceremonial role, can delve into executive activities against the letter and spirit of the constitutional charter governing the relationship, but more than that it highlighted the fact that the very constitutional charter has been violated by the government, who failed till today in setting up the legislative council as one example or appointing state ministers in open contravention to the charter that restricts the number of ministers in the government.
However, the main question is how Sudan is going to benefit from such move and whether it was preceded by a solid ground work to ensure the outcome. Such questions go to the heart of the government operation and its plan for delisting. It was clearly high on the agenda of the prime minister in his two visits to New York and Washington last year, but obviously so far nothing has been achieved. To address that is not through al-Burhan making his own try, but for both to work out a joint plan on how to achieve the delisting goal.
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