GP Insights # 430, 25 October 2020
On 24 October, the US President Donald Trump announced that the Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreeing to normalize relations. The joint communique issued by the three states read: "The leaders agreed to the normalization of relations between Sudan and Israel and to end the state of belligerence between their nations". After the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, Khartoum is the third Arab government to normalize ties with Israel in the last two months.
Palestinians called it a "new stab in the back".
What is the background?
First, the US pressure and incentives. On 19 October, following months of negotiations between the US administration and the transitional Sudanese government, Trump in a tweet, menitioned about his decision to remove Sudan from the State Sponsors of Terrorism (SST). He wrote, "New government of Sudan, which is making great progress, agreed to pay $335 million to US terror victims and families. Once deposited, I will lift Sudan from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list. At long last, Justice for the American people and a big step for Sudan!" Sudan's PM Hamdok responded by appreciating Trump's statement and said that Sudan was looking forward to Trump's "official notification to Congress rescinding the designation of Sudan as a state-sponsor of terrorism, which has cost Sudan too much." The US Congress is yet to approve any such move.
Second, Sudan's economic interests. The removal from the SST could help Sudan avail the much-required international investment that could address the country's spiralling inflation. As per Sudan's Central Bureau of Statistics, Sudan's annual inflation peaked to 212.29 per cent in September 2020 from 166.83 per cent in August. With the de-listing, Sudan will be relieved of its debts under the World Bank's and International Monetary Fund's Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative.
What does it mean?
First Sudan has been internally skewed on the normalization, the de-listing and the economic gains mean much larger than the Palestinian cause for a country with rampant poverty, $60 billion in international debt and a crumbling economy. Moreover, the benefits will mollify the domestic criticism that could lead to the breakdown of Sudan's friable democratic transition.
Second, national interests and personal interests. For Israel, which has already approved the resumption of settlement construction, it means garnering more Arab support and furthering the interests of greater Israel. For Trump, it means a significant foreign policy score ahead of the upcoming US presidential elections. However, the nascent deal's success largely depends on the US Congress' decision. Thus, Sudan has insisted on holding the promised $335 million in victims' compensation in escrow until the Congress grants legal immunity.