Trump announces Israel, Sudan to normalize ties
Sudanese leader Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Photo: Amit Shabi, AFP, Getty Images)

US President Donald Trump announced Friday that Sudan will normalize ties with Israel, making it the third Arab state to do so as part of US-brokered deals in the run-up to Election Day.

Sudan thus becomes the fifth Arab county overall to recognize the Jewish state, following the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, which did so in September; Egypt — the first Arab country to ink a peace deal with Israel in 1979 — and Jordan, which did so in 1994.

Friday's announcement, which is likely to deepen Sudan's engagement with the West, follow Trump's conditional agreement this week to remove the North African nation from the list of state sponsors of terrorism if it pays compensation to American victims of terror attacks.

During a call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Sudan's Sovereign Council President Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, Trump brought reporters into the Oval Office and announced: "The state of Israel and the Republic of Sudan have agreed to make peace."

"This is a new world," Netanyahu said over the phone. "We are cooperating with everyone. Building a better future for all of us."

Trump responded by saying, There are many, many more [peace deals] coming."

Netanyahu has made it a priority to forge ties with formerly hostile countries in Africa and the Arab world in the absence of any progress with the Palestinians during his more than a decade in office.

The deal also is aimed at unifying Arab countries against their common adversary, Iran.

The deal also delivers another foreign policy achievement for Trump just days before the US election.

Trump stressed that Sudan had demonstrated a commitment to battling terrorism, saying, "This is one of the great days in the history of Sudan."

Unlike the UAE and Bahrain, which never battled with Israel, Khartoum and Jerusalem were, in fact, in an official state of war for decades, as the latter fought alongside Arab forces during the 1948 War of Independence.

For years, Sudanese officials also accused Israel of funding insurgents in South Sudan, before it gained independence from Sudan in 2011.

These recent recognitions of Israel have undermined the traditional Arab consensus that there can be no normalization with Israel before the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

The Palestinians say the recognitions amount to betrayal, while Israel says the Palestinians have lost what they have seen as their "veto" over regional peace efforts.

The deal with Sudan will include aid and investment from Israel, particularly in technology and agriculture, along with further debt relief. It comes as Sudan and its transitional government teeter on the edge. Thousands have protested in the country's capital Khartoum and other regions in recent days over dire economic conditions.

Trump's announcement, the morning after the final presidential debate with Democrat Joe Biden, came after Sudan followed through on its pledge to deliver $335 million to compensate American victims of past terror attacks and their families.

The money is meant for victims of the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania by the al-Qaida network while its leader, Osama bin Laden, was living in Sudan. Trump said on Tuesday that one the funds were transferred, he would remove Sudan from the list.

The removal of the terror designation opens the door for Sudan to get international loans and aid needed to revive its battered economy and rescue the country's transition to democracy.

Sudan is on a fragile path to democracy after a popular uprising last year led the military to overthrow the longtime autocrat, Omar al-Bashir. A military-civilian government rules the country, with elections possible in late 2022.

Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok thanked Trump for signing the executive order to remove Sudan from the terrorism list and said in a statement that he hoped to complete the process in a "timely manner."

The normalization agreement had been in the works for some time but was finalized when Trump's Mideast peace team, led by Jared Kushner and Avi Berkowitz, visited the region earlier this week to mark the first commercial flight between Israel and Bahrain and then went on to the United Arab Emirates, according to US officials.

Unmentioned in the joint statement was that Sudan has agreed, according to the senior US official, to designate Lebanon's Hezbollah movement as a terrorist organization, something that Israel has long sought from its neighbors and others in the international community.

Kushner said that other normalization agreements between Israel and Arab nations are in the works but would not predict which countries or when those deals might be completed.

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