During Wednesday’s State Department press briefing, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo teased that Sudan could be the next country to sign a deal to normalize diplomatic relations with Israel. Pompeo also revealed that the U.S. is moving to lift the state sponsorship of terror designation still imposed against Sudan.
The Trump administration recently brokered similar deals with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Israel, dubbed “The Abraham Accords.” The two gulf countries signed deals with Israel at the White House last month, signaling a “new era of Middle East Peace.” A delegation from Sudan was reportedly in attendance at the signing ceremony.
“I don’t know the precise timing, but we have begun the process to lift the designation of state sponsorship of terror,” Pompeo said. “It’s the right thing to do. There’s been a lot of work done on this over the course of the first three years of the administration. We believe there’s a firm legal basis for doing that and we think that there will be enormous bipartisan consensus that that’s the right thing to do.”
Pompeo visited the Sudanese capital of Khartoum in August, where he flew on the first-ever direct flight from Israel to Sudan. Khartoum recognizing Israel would be historic, mainly because it was the site of the infamous Khartoum resolution, where the Arab states signed an anti-normalization deal and declared that they wouldn’t negotiate, recognize, or make peace with Israel.
“We also are continuing to work to get every nation to recognize Israel, the rightful Jewish homeland and to acknowledge their basic, fundamental right to exist as a country,” Pompeo told reporters Wednesday. “That certainly includes Sudan and we are working diligently with them to make the case for why that’s in the Sudanese government’s best interest to make that sovereign decision. We hope that they’ll do that, we hope that they’ll do that quickly. We hope every country will do that quickly.”
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Biden Administration Sacrificing Saudi-Israel Deal on Altar of Palestinian Statehood
Iran kicked out one-third of its nuclear inspectors. The Biden administration is on the verge of getting Iran to release five hostages in exchange for unfreezing $6 billion of Iranian cash, and potentially five Iranian prisoners held in US custody. As Iran is on the march, a breakthrough in Middle East peace can’t come fast enough.
The best way to check Iranian ambitions in the region would be the normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel. While such a deal would be “tectonic,” the Biden administration is destroying the prospects for normalization because it continues to be obsessed with linking the deal to Palestinian nationalism.
More than any of the known Palestinian demands to date, the Biden administration is fixated on Palestinian statehood. And the administration continues to browbeat Israel on that point. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has recently claimed that both Saudi Arabia and the Biden administration view a two-state solution an important piece to any deal. Previously, Blinken told Israel’s minister of strategic affairs, Ron Dermer, that Israel would be “misreading the situation” if it doesn’t think that significant concessions to the Palestinians would be required to broker a Saudi-Israel deal. White House National Security Council spokesman Jake Sullivan also told Dermer that that Israel will need to give significant concessions to the Palestinians so that the Biden administration can sell the deal to Democrats in Congress.
One unconfirmed Saudi press report stated that the Saudis have walked away from talks, due to concerns that Israel wouldn’t agree to placate the Palestinians. However, both an American and an Israeli official have asserted that that report is false.
What is more likely is that the Saudis are taking a pragmatic, not absolutist, approach to a Palestinian track. According to an unnamed Arab official who is familiar with recent talks between Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority (PA) earlier this month, Saudi Arabia is now communicating to the PA that it is willing to abandon the two-state solution as a pre-condition for normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel, and that the PA needs to acclimate its demands to that fact. Additionally, Saudi Arabia has proposed to re-start aid to the PA, halted since 2016, in efforts to get the PA to at least tacitly support normalization.
The Israeli response to Palestinian nationalism is much more publicly opposed. Israeli National Security Advisor Tzachi Hanegbi has rejected the idea of Palestinian statehood as part of the deal. Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said the concept of Israeli concessions to the Palestinians as a part of normalization is “a fiction” as such a deal “has nothing to do with Judea and Samaria [commonly referred to in the West as the ‘West Bank’].”
Israel’s hostility to Palestinian nationalism is well founded. As the Oslo Accords turn 30 years old, the so called “peace process” has failed to bring peace to Israel, as Israel has had to defend itself against at least five warsand countless smaller violent conflicts against the Palestinians since 1993. PA President Mahmoud Abbas continued to show his true bigoted face with a recent anti-Semitic diatribe, part and parcel of the systemic anti-Semitism and incitement to violence of the PA.
The Biden administration continues to stand in the way of Saudi Arabia’s normalization of relations with Israel, as it continues to pursue maximalist demands on Palestinian statehood. This is a non-starter for Israel, and not a top concern for Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia, like Israel, is primarily focused on using the deal to leverage its strength against Iran – as Saudi Arabia is looking to secure US support for advanced weapons, a NATO-like alliance, and civilian nuclear energy. In order to make a sustainable counterweight against Iranian aggression, the Biden administration must jettison its demands for Palestinian statehood, and at the very least answer Saudi concerns with a serious counter-offer. Failure to buttress Israel, Saudi Arabia and our Gulf allies will likely result in a resurgent Iran.
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