As Israel boosts its ties with two Gulf countries, a report has emerged stipulating that another nation is on its way to establish official relations with the Jewish state.
Several days ago, it was reported that the Sudanese Sovereignty Council decided to go ahead with the normalisation process, following alleged US pressure that gave Khartoum 24 hours to take or leave the deal.
On Sunday, an unnamed Sudanese official confirmed that a deal with Israel was looming.
BRK: A senior Sudanese official confirms to me that they are awaiting a formal US decision on removing the country from the list of states that sponsor terrorism. Steps towards normalizing ties with Israel would follow. pic.twitter.com/3tGdvJLPR6— Wasil Ali - واصل علي (@wasilalitaha) October 18, 2020
But Mohammed Ali Fazari, a Khartoum-based journalist, says the normalisation process is likely to take time, given the multiple obstacles that lie in its way.
Obstacles in the Way of Peace
The first such hurdle is the fact that the current Sudanese government is considered transitional, and as such it has no rights to decide on such paramount issues as peace treaties with other nations.
A presidential race is expected in Sudan in 2024 and once the winner is determined, it will be then that Khartoum will be able to make a decision on whether to go ahead with the normalisation plans or stick to its current policy.
Another obstacle to peace is the alleged blackmailing of the White House. "Washington conditioned the removal of Sudan from the list of states sponsoring terror upon a normalisation agreement with Israel," argued Fazari, adding that the Sudanese leadership will find it hard to swallow that pill.
In fact, that move has already triggered criticism from Sudan's Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who demanded the separation of the two issues and refused to concede to the blackmailing of the White House.
And there is yet another factor, says the journalist: public opinion. Shortly after Israel inked its historic agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, a poll conducted by Qatar-run Arab Centre for Research and Policy Studies has indicated that only 13 percent of the Sudanese agreed to a normalisation with Israel. 79 percent rejected such a step.
However, while currently strong, opposition to a potential deal could subside with time, as long as it serves the interests of the state, and Fazari believes his country has a number of reasons to press ahead with a peace agreement.
The primary interest of Sudan is cash injections. If reports are true and a pact with Israel will remove Sudan from a list of states sponsoring terror, where it has been since 1993, it will unlock billions of dollars of assistance to the African nation.
Sudan's ailing economy is in desperate need of this cash. The country's inflation, that currently stands at 61.5 percent, is expected to hit 65.7 percent in 2021, while its unemployment rate is slated to climb too, reaching nearly 15 percent in the upcoming year.
"Apart from the willingness to be removed from the US sanctions list and become fully integrated into the international community, Sudan is also interested in receiving access to Israel's innovation and technology," claims the journalist.
Known for its scientific research and know-how in the spheres of agriculture and water technology, Israel can provide solutions to many of Sudan's current problems, addressing everything from water purification to electricity generation.
And Israel is set to benefit from this partnership too. Over the years, pro-Palestinian Sudan has thrown great support behind Hamas, an Islamic group which has been deemed a terrorist organisation by Israel.
The group’s ideology, that linked itself to the Muslim Brotherhood movement in Egypt, resonated with many Sudanese and eventually prompted the country's government to establish tight relations with Hamas' leadership, harbour its militants and allow them to smuggle weapons through its territory.
Israel sees that cooperation between Sudan and Hamas as a threat, and if a peace deal ends up being signed, the Jewish state will make it harder for the Islamic group to obtain weapons and train militants, something that will isolate the organisation even further.
"Ties with Sudan will also help Israel to stop or minimise the flow of African refugees but, most importantly, it will give an example to other African and Arab states to follow suit. Will that happen quickly? We still don't know as the obstacles are still there."