Peace, the Middle East, and $335 Million Dollars?

Written by: Lindsay Durkin, Associate Editor

In the recent weeks and months, the Middle East has seen steps towards increased stability and peace. On October 23, 2020. A phone call between United States President, Donald Trump, Israel Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Sudan Prime Minister, Abdalla Hamdok took place. This phone call served as the solidify the peace deal between Sudan and Israel. This makes Sudan the third Middle Eastern country in the last two months to have reached a peace agreement with Israel. Before this agreement, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates were the only Arab states in 26 years to have a formal relationship with Israel. The UAE’s foreign ministry responded to Sudan’s decision to form this peace deal by stating it was “an important step to boost security and prosperity in the region.”

Before September, Jordan and Egypt were the only two Arab states that formally recognized Israel as a sovereign nation. Egypt, which borders Israel to its north, has had a peace agreement in place since 1979. Jordan, which border Israel to its east, has had a peace agreement in place since 1994. Both of these peace agreements came to fruition with the help of US mediation.

The three countries worked together to release a joint statement which stated, “the leaders agreed to the normalization of relations between Sudan and Israel and to end the state of belligerence between their nations.”

While this seems like an inherently good thing for all involved, there are those who do not feel the same way. Palestine leaders referred to this deal as a “stab in the back”. Palestine, growing more bitter with every new Arab country that begins to formally recognize Israel, has remained firm in their beliefs that this is nothing short of a betrayal which they condemn.

Sudan and Israel have not had a pleasant history with one another. The countries have been enemies since Israel’s founding in 1948. Sudan’s government has been in a period of transition since 2019 when the military overthrew dictator Omar al-Bashir in a coup d’état. Israeli Prime Minister has stated that this agreement is the start of a “new era.” Israel and Sudan intend to start this new era by opening their economy and trade to one another. The countries are certain that regional security will strengthen and will improve the lives not only for the Sudanese and Israeli people, but their neighbors as well.

In the days leading up to this phone call, President Trump agreed to have Sudan removed from the United States’ official list of state sponsors of terrorism. It was stipulated that Sudan would be only removed once Sudan paid $335 million in reparation to the United States for the 1998 al-Qaeda attacks on US embassies in Africa. This money is going towards victims and their families who were affected by those attacks in Kenya and Tanzania. Following this demand, Sudan placed the $335 million deposit in an escrow holding account. By removing Sudan from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, President Trump effectively unblocked economic aid and investments for Sudan.

Following this new peace deal, President Trump stated that there are at least five more Arab counties, namely Saudi Arabia, that are currently considering following suit to normalize their diplomatic relations with Israel. Following this agreement, President Trump stated that “they are choosing a future in which Arabs and Israelis, Muslims, Jews, and Christians can live together, pray together, and dream together, side by side, in harmony, community, and peace.”

Matt Spetalnick, Steve Holland, and Jeff Mason, Sudan Becomes Third Arab State to Set Aside Hostilities with Israel This Year, Reuters (Oct. 23, 2020) available at https://www.reuters.com/article/idUSKBN278220

Sudan-Israel Relations Agreed, Donald Trump Announces. BBC News World (Oct. 24, 2020) available at https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-54554286

Bill Chappell, Sudan and Israel Agree to Normalize Relations In U.S.-Brokered Deal, NPR (Oct. 23, 2020) available at https://www.npr.org/2020/10/23/927183083/sudan-and-israel-agree-to-normalize-relations-in-u-s-brokered-deal

President Donald J. Trump Brokers a Historic Peace Agreement Between Israel and Sudan, White House (Oct. 23, 2020) available at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/president-donald-j-trump-brokers-historic-peace-agreement-israel-sudan/

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