Sudan pushed hard for Israel meeting, saw path from Netanyahu to White House

The African leader pushed hard for Monday’s historic meeting with PM Netanyahu.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The historic meeting Monday between Sudanese leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Uganda was a Sudanese initiative more than Israeli one, Israel Hayom reported on Wednesday.

“The speed and timing of the meeting was set by the Sudanese side, which asked to have it as soon as possible,” said the source, seemingly because of Burhan’s upcoming meeting in Washington with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

After a day of silence following his two-hour meeting in Uganda with Netanyahu, the chairman of Sudan’s Sovereignty Council said Tuesday that it was in his country’s self-interest to start normalizing ties with the Jewish state.

In a statement, Burhan said that his decision to meet was made “to preserve and maintain Sudanese national security and achieve the supreme interests of the Sudanese people.”

These interests include moving closer to the American orbit to gain its financial help in rebuilding the country after decades of being on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism when it was led by Islamist dictator Omar al-Bashir.

Burhan’s administration is a mix of civilian and military leaders that came together in a power-sharing arrangement after kicking out Bashir last summer.

The Trump administration has made great efforts to encourage Arab and Muslim countries to engage more with Israel, whether quietly or openly. After Bashir met Netanyahu, Pompeo called to thank him “for his leadership in normalizing ties with Israel,” said Pompeo’s spokesman.

While Israeli officials said the countries are already “setting up teams to work on how to advance cooperation between the countries and establish diplomatic relations,” an Israeli ambassador may not be moving to Khartoum very soon.

The Sudanese cabinet, which said it was not told about the meeting ahead of time, consulted with the leaders of the alliance that overthrew Bashir. The alliance, the Forces for Freedom and Change, then accused Burhan of committing “a major breach” of the country’s constitutional declaration for his actions.

On Tuesday, dozens demonstrated against the opening of relations with Israel in front of government headquarters in Khartoum, according to Reuters.

“The betrayal that was represented in the meeting with the head of the Zionist entity, is a dagger in the heart of the Sudanese people,” said one of the protesters.

Bashir himself made sure to show in his statement that he has not become a lover of Zion just because he may recognize Israel as Egypt and Jordan have done. His country has a “principled stance on the Palestinian issue and the right of its people to establish its independent state…in accordance with the Arab consensus and Arab League decisions,” it said.

The Arab League, which numbers Sudan among its 22 member states, rejected President Trump’s peace plan at its emergency meeting Saturday, saying that it did not meet the “minimum rights” of the Palestinians.