The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have normalised ties with American ally, Israel. Trump administration has hailed it as a historic foreign policy achievement. Trump asserted that more Arab countries have shown interest to join the row. He is willing to cash this achievement in US Presidential elections.
Saudi Arabia and Sudan are the next big targets of US President Donald Trump. The US is consistently persuading both countries but is in more control of Sudan. America is willing to throw away money along with some other strategic bargains to arrive at a deal with Sudan.
Saudi Arabia, on other hand, is playing cards at its discretion. Its officials, including Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, were engaged in Israel’s normalisation of ties with Bahrain and UAE. Yet, Saudi has not come up with any direct reference of settling its own ties with Israel. The country has its own set of restraints.
Israel deal: What’s on offer for Sudan
Sudan is reeling under a grave economic crisis. The US has offered an assistance package of $800 million but the amount did not suffice for Sudanese leaders. They have demanded at least $3 billion to save the country from exponentially rising inflation and food shortages. America’s move is seen as a giveaway to muster support for Israel in the Arab region.
Trump administration has a larger enticement to make Sudan recognise Israel. The US has decided to concede Sudan’s longstanding demand for removing it from the list of states that sponsor terrorism. Its name was marked on that list in 1993 because of its proximity with the militant Islamist group, Hamas. Ironically, Israel was a key player in designating Sudan as a terror-sponsoring state and now its removal from the list comes as a bargain to recognise Israel.
The designation bears grave implications on Sudan’s economic situation. It prevents the country from getting monetary aid and debt from international agencies. The designation also badly affects foreign Investment in Sudan. Sudan’s removal from the list could save its dwindling economy and provide relief to its civilians. But this again comes at a cost.
Controversy around the deal
Recognition of Israel is not just controversial in Sudan. It has the force to shake the foundation of the novice democracy which is just taking shape in the country.
The controversy comes from the long hostile history that both countries share. Israel and Sudan have been in mutual conflict since the 1970s. Although the relation between them has improved since Sudan drifted away from Iran in 2016, hostile sentiments still prevail in both countries.
Double dilemma for Sudan
Sudan is caught in a double dilemma. It is not in a position to resist economic package from the United States. At the same time, recognising Israel will undo improving situations in the country.
Sudan’s civilian Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok cast his reservations around recognising Israel. He said such a deal will disturb the socio-political standing of Sudan. Radical Islamic group were constricted in the country after the ousting of the dictator Omar al-Bashir last year. There is a fear that those groups will regain footing in case Sudan strikes a deal with Israel.
Other important leaders, especially from the military faction have backed normalization of ties with Israel, if the notorious designation of the terror-sponsoring state is lifted and the economic assistance package is big enough.
A waiting game in Saudi Arabia
In Saudi Arabia, the main bottleneck is concern towards Palestine- the diminishing rivals of Israel. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman does not have any allegiance towards Palestine. He has openly praised the normalization of ties of Bahrain and UAE with Israel, giving indirect acceptance to Israel.
So what keeps Saudi Arabia away from the deal?
It is King Salman’s loyalty towards the Palestinian cause that prevents the normalization of ties between Saudi and Israel.
It is interesting to see if Trump is able to push the deal with Sudan before the US Presidential election. He is certainly using the government’s coffers to improve his rank among voters. The deal may bring disturbing realities in a country aspiring for a better future.
With Saudi Arabia, it is a waiting game for America.