The US has offered Sudan an attractive deal in exchange for a normalization of ties with Israel, but a fatwa by Sudanese Islamic authorities aims to block it.
Rabat – Sudan’s religious authorities yesterday issued a fatwa against normalization of ties with Israel. The US offered Sudan an attractive package of security and economic incentives in exchange for normalization with Israel, reports have indicated.
Part of America’s normalization package included taking Sudan off its list of countries sponsoring terrorism. Currently, Sudan’s presence on the list means the country faces sanctions and does not qualify for US foreign aid.
Factions in Khartoum have been split over a potential normalization deal between Israel and Sudan. Some in the country see the US-sponsored normalization deal as a once in a lifetime opportunity that could expire following the 2020 US presidential elections. Others argued that the designation is a mere remnant of the oppressive regime of Omar Al-Bashir that was toppled in 2019.
Sudan’s Islamic Fiqh Council, the country’s highest religious authority, appears to have taken the manner into its hands by issuing a fatwa against the potential agreement. The fatwa ostensibly aims to silence calls from Sudanese political parties to accept an agreement in exchange for the changed designation and US economic support.
Sudan’s has been on the list of states sponsoring terrorism since 1993. Sudanese diplomats have lobbied the US for years to lift the designation. During the country’s crisis in Darfur and as the country split into two, foreign aid became more urgently needed. Now that Sudan’s former dictator Omar al-Bashir had been overthrown, many in Sudan hoped the designation would be lifted.
Instead, the US is using the designation as a bargaining tool in its push for a normalization deal between Sudan and Israel. Last week reports from Khartoum announced that US officials had offered the deal despite Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok’s insistence that normalization and the designation were separate matters.
International media reported on August 18 that remarks from Sudan’s Spokesman to the Foreign Minister Haidar Badawi signaled an impending normalization deal with Israel. Badawi had said he couldn’t deny that Sudan’s diplomatic corps had been in contact with Israel regarding normalization.
He stated that there was “no reason to continue hostility between Sudan and Israel,” and that Sudan was “looking forward to concluding a peace agreement with Israel.” The remarks prompted Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to publicly push for a rapid normalization process between Sudan and Israel.
But as the media reported on the news, the country’s acting Foreign Minister Omar Qamar al-Din fumed at his spokesman’s remarks. A day later, he fired Badawi from his role of spokesman and head of the country’s communications team.
The move by Sudan’s Islamic Fiqh Council could prompt religious figures in other countries considering such an agreement to make similar statements. The US and Israel have been busy pushing as many countries as possible to normalize ties with Israel. Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Qatar have all been mentioned as potential candidates.
In Morocco, where public opinion is patently pro-Palestine, religious authorities could be tempted to issue a similar declaration. Meanwhile, even as normalization promoters continue to argue that the US could use Western Sahara as a game-changing factor, several other important indicators show that a normalization deal between Israel and Morocco would be extremely unlikely to materialize.