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Secret contacts between Israel and Sudan paved the way for Trump’s sealed deal



When the United States formally facilitated the restoration of the normalization agreement between Israel and Sudan, it was Israel that facilitated negotiations between the United States and Sudan on a broader agreement, including Sudan’s removal from the list of US national terrorism supporters.

Why it matters: The secret contacts between Israeli and Sudanese officials paved the way for the nearly one-year deal.

  • This story is based on the narratives of four U.S. and Israeli officials, all of whom participated in the process but declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the negotiations.

flashback: In early 2019, Sudan’s then dictator, Omar al-Bashir, approached Israel in a desperate attempt to gain power.

  • Bashir had a number of conversations with an Israeli intelligence officer who turned into a diplomat, nicknamed “Maoz”
    ; (Maoz), who had previously handled the assets of the Sinbet intelligence agency in Hamas, Gaza for many years.
  • Maoz played a new role in Netanyahu’s office: developing relations with countries in Africa and the Arab world, which have no diplomatic relations with Israel.
  • Israeli officials said that Israel is willing to listen to Bashir’s speech, but is unwilling to help him.

Last January A few months after Bashir was overthrown, Netanyahu proposed to meet with General Abdul Fatah Burhan, head of the Sudanese transitional government, to discuss the issue of normalization.

  • Nick Kaufman (Nick Kaufman) is a British Israeli lawyer who advised the new Sudanese government on the possible extradition of Bashir to the International Criminal Court. Netanyahu moved Khartoum in his letter. He got a positive answer from Burhan when he returned.
  • Najwa Gadaheldam is a close adviser to Burhan. He also advised Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. He and Maoz secretly organized A meeting in Uganda under the chairmanship of Moseveni.
  • The February 3 meeting constituted a historic breakthrough in the relationship between Israel and Sudan. Israeli officials said that Burhan was ready to normalize immediately, but Sultan Abdalla Hamdok knew nothing about the meeting and strongly opposed it.

Israel election and the COVID-19 pandemic Although Maoz continued to speak with Burhan or his assistants every week, the Sudan-Israeli footprint was put aside.

  • Sudan allowed Israeli aircraft to withdraw from Sudan and South Africa in March. This is the first time that Israeli aircraft have used Sudanese airspace.
  • Later, when Gadaheldam fell ill with COVID-19, the Israelis then sent a medical team to Sudan. She was very ill and could not be evacuated to Israel, and died a few days after the doctor arrived.

Behind-the-scenes: When Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Israel in April, Netanyahu lobbied him to see Sudan as an opportunity and opened a direct communication channel with Burhan. Their first call was made with the assistance of Israelis, and that visit was a few days later.

  • The progress between the United States and Sudan developed slowly for several months.
  • Then, when the UAE agreed to standardize it The relationship with Israel began, and the United States began to look for more countries to follow suit.
Pompeo (L) meets Hamdok in Hartmum.Photo: Handout via Getty Images

Israelis suggest Trump administration merge The dialogue between Sudan and Sudan, and the dialogue between Israel and Sudan on normalization. The UAE made a similar proposal.

  • When Pompeo visited Israel in late August, Sudan had become the top priority on the agenda, and the Israelis provided him with direct flights from Tel Aviv to Sudan.
  • Netanyahu’s aides briefed Pompeo’s advisers, and Netanyahu’s aides even provided suggestions on how to handle the meeting.
  • Burhan is eager to reach an agreement involving terrorist lists and normalization, but he needs Hamdok’s consent.

When Pompeo met Hamdok, He proposed an agreement: remove Sudan from the terrorist list, accept a package of aid from the United States, and normalize relations with Israel.

  • Pompeo told Hamdok that Trump was ready to close a deal immediately. He even proposed to talk to Trump and Natanyahu (Natanyahu) to reach an agreement, but Hamdok disagreed.
  • In the next few weeks, Israeli officials, including Ambassador Ron Demer, continued to lobby the Trump administration for an agreement, and Netanyahu suggested that the United States provide Sudan with more incentives.
  • On the American side, David Friedman, the ambassador to Israel, and his senior adviser, Aryeh Lightstone, also urged an agreement

By September 21, the transaction seemed imminent. The UAE and Israelis organized a meeting in Abu Dhabi between a high-level Sudanese delegation and a White House team led by General Miguel Correa, Director of the National Security Council for Africa and the Gulf States.

  • But after two days of negotiations, the negotiations broke down.
  • One reason is that there is a huge gap between the aid package expected by Sudan and the aid provided by the United States.
  • The other is cultural conflict. Language barriers cause the messages of both parties to lose their direction in translation. The negotiators quarreled endlessly and the negotiation broke down.
  • The Israelis and Emiratis have worked hard to ease tensions and maintain a closer relationship between the two sides-warning the Sudanese that they have never received such a good offer after the U.S. election, and urged the Americans to reach an agreement.
  • After a brief calm, negotiations resumed. Correa and the White House special envoy Avi Berkowitz addressed the Sudanese ambassador to Washington, Pompeo continued to talk to Hamdok, and the Israelis and Emiratis continued to lobby both sides.

At a meeting that proved to be decisive On October 21, in Khartoum, negotiations on the order of the transaction content almost broke down again.

  • The United States hopes that Sudan will first announce the normalization agreement with Israel, at least at the same time as the announcement on the terrorist list.
  • They finally succumbed to Sudan’s insistence that the name of the terrorist was cancelled first.

Two days later, As Netanyahu and Sudanese leaders scrolled on the phone and TV cameras, Trump announced the deal.

deeper: The Sudanese government fears that it will collapse after reaching an agreement with Trump


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