October 23, 2020 — New York
American Jewish Committee (AJC) praised the announcement today that Sudan will establish full diplomatic relations with Israel. Sudan will become the fifth Arab country to sign a peace agreement with Israel.
“Today’s announcement is indicative of a very positive trend, a change of heart, among Arab leaders across the region regarding Israel,” said AJC CEO David Harris. “In this peacemaking endeavor, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s vision and President Trump’s dedication to advancing Arab-Israeli peace have been transformative.”
The Israel-Sudan agreement comes amidst a pivotal transition in Sudan as the country prepares for democratic elections in 2022, following last year’s historic revolution overthrowing dictator Omar al-Bashir. AJC affirms U.S. support for Sudan’s civilian-led transitional government as it leads this process.
Sudan and Israel technically had been at war. Sudan, a Muslim-majority nation, hosted the Arab League conference in November 1967, which issued the “three no’s”: no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, and no negotiations. Sudanese passports included language stating their validity everywhere except Israel.
In ensuing years, Sudanese politics shifted toward militant Islamism. That changed in April 2019, when peaceful civilian protests led to the end of al-Bashir’s oppressive 30-year reign. In his place a transitional council of civilian and military leadership was appointed to steward the transition to democracy.
“Sudan is returning to its values of openness, and thereby increasing its ability to exercise leadership in the region,” said Harris. “We recall with deep appreciation in 1979 when there was such a virulent reaction to the Egypt-Israel peace treaty, Sudan was one of only two Arab states that stood with Egypt and supported its brave decision.”
Following the revolution the Sudanese Minister of Religious Affairs has declared a commitment to religious pluralism in the country, welcoming back the Jewish and Christian populations that largely fled under the terror of al-Bashir’s government. Sudan also eased some of the previous Islamist policies regarding women’s dress, apostasy and public floggings.
At a meeting in New York a year ago on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok spoke with AJC leadership about his desire to change the perception of Sudan and its listing as a state sponsor of terrorism. He also reaffirmed Sudan’s commitment to reengaging with the history of Jews in Sudan.
AJC also has taken Sudanese nationals on its Project Interchange educational trips to Israel. AJC Project Interchange is a vital program to promote better understanding between Israeli and Sudanese civil society and members of the policy communities.
“This announcement on Israel is the culmination of dramatic changes in Sudan over the last 18 months, and a return to the forward-looking Sudan we saw in the wake of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty,” said Harris. “Jewish communities thrived in Sudan going back to the nineteenth century, and we look forward to renewed partnership in the wake of this agreement.”
This development comes amidst sensitive issues related to Sudan’s bid to be delisted by the U.S. government as a terrorist state. Issues involved include outstanding legal claims of victims of the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and outstanding legal claims from 9/11 families. AJC remains committed to the judicial process in these matters as well as the need to support Sudan in its pursuit of democratic values and transparency.
AJC’s Africa Institute, founded in 2006, has pioneered advocacy for Israel’s reengagement with Africa, and played a vital role in forging ties between the American Jewish community and senior African government officials and civil society leaders.