What does Israel export besides arms?
The Middle East is in a state of upheaval. After the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain, Sudan is now also approaching Israel. With the mediation of the USA, the African crisis country and the Jewish state ended their long-standing hostility in order to make peace.
The normalization agreement is an important breakthrough for both of them. While it strengthens Israel's security and geostrategic interests, Sudan wants to get out of its decades of isolation.
riots "The ways of the Torah are pleasant, and all its paths are peace," quotes David Elbaz from the Talmud. The dermatologist, who lives in Tel Aviv, was born 77 years ago in Khartoum as the son of a rabbi in the local community and immigrated to Israel in 1964 because of anti-Semitic riots.
The normalization agreement is an important breakthrough for both of them.
“This peace touches me. My parents and grandparents were born in Sudan, «says the dermatologist. "For the rest of my life I longed for this beautiful country with its wonderful people."
Like the Elbaz family, many Jews from the Middle East settled in the African country at the end of the 19th century - especially from Egypt, to which Sudan belonged under the British crown from 1899. According to historians, there has been Jewish life in Sudan since the 15th century, and it increased during the Ottoman period, 300 years later.
DIASPORA "Although the community only had 1,000 members, there was a flourishing Jewish life in Khartoum," explains Elbaz. »In the city center stood the only synagogue in the country, which was built in 1926, offered space for 500 people and also had a mikveh. Since there was no Jewish school, we attended either Catholic or English institutes. "
The middle and upper classes consisted of many interconnected diverse groups. In addition to the Jewish ones, there were numerous diaspora communities from southern Europe and the Middle East in Khartoum. They all had a social center where they met and made contacts. "We had a good life," he reminisces. “The Sudanese were very loving, tolerant and protected us. It was very harmonious and the Jews - mostly doctors, merchants or scholars - were well integrated there. "
For Israel, normalization with Sudan does not mean the same strategic achievement as peace with neighboring former enemies Egypt and Jordan. The agreement is less bilateral and more regional: Another country has left the cycle of conflict with the Jewish state. However, unlike the peace agreements with the UAE and Bahrain, this step does not mean any major economic opportunities.
For Israel, normalization with Sudan does not mean the same strategic achievement as peace with neighboring former enemies Egypt and Jordan.
Sudan has little to export to Israel, and for expensive imported goods - other than Israeli water, agriculture, and food technologies that will help bring the country into the 21st century - its treasury after decades of dictatorship, corruption and Civil wars empty.
But in contrast to the autocratic Arab monarchies on the Persian Gulf, the Sudanese regime around ruler Abdel Fattah al-Burhan wants to venture into democracy, and the geopolitical situation of the African state is also interesting for Jerusalem.
ANTAGONISM "Israel now maintains diplomatic relations with most African countries," says Irit Bak from the Institute for African Studies at Tel Aviv University, "now also with one of the most important and largest countries on the continent, which also acts as a bridge between southern Africa and the Northern Sahara applies. "
Peace between the two countries will not be easy, however, and could provoke antagonism among the population groups in Sudan. For one thing, Israel was viewed as an enemy for years, and relations were like a roller coaster ride. The African country took part in the wars against the Jewish state in both 1948 and 1967, and there have been repeated anti-Semitic riots since the 1950s.
Khartoum also stands for the resolution of the Arab League after Israel's victory in the Six Day War, when all members agreed on the "three no's" - to peace, recognition and negotiations with Israel. Jerusalem, in turn, supported the South Sudan's war of independence. Israel also helped tens of thousands of Ethiopian Jews flee to Sudan in the 1970s. The "Falashes" were brought to their new home by the Israeli navy via a diving resort that served as a camouflage.
When President Omar al-Bashir, who had ruled until a year ago, came to power in a military coup in 1989, Sudan took a sharp turn towards Islamism. For decades, an alliance with Iran has provided weapons and military support to terrorist groups such as the Palestinian Hamas and the Lebanese Hezbollah.
"Since the dictator was ousted, the country has consisted of two factions, and the transitional coalition, made up of generals and civil representatives of the revolution, has been struggling with internal conflicts," explains political scientist Bak. "Normalization with Israel poses a threat to their leaders because any setback could destabilize the fragile situation."
problems But Sudan has major economic problems and needs money from international companies and banks. Due to his classification as a supporter of terrorism, he was isolated internationally. After paying around 290 million euros to American victims of terrorism, the country hopes to be removed from the US list of “sponsors of terrorism”. But this also includes normalization with Israel, which experienced its thaw in February 2020.
For Israel it is about security, for Sudan it is about ending isolation.
"Sudan wants to develop relations with Israel," says Doron Pinto, long-time security advisor at the Israeli embassy in Cairo. "They are looking for international support that they hope will lead to the lifting of sanctions and embargoes."
For Israel, which wants to prevent Iran and Turkey from gaining a foothold in Africa, peace with Sudan is of geostrategic importance because of its geographic location. For decades, Iranian support resulted in numerous terrorist activities on its territory and the neighboring states, many of which were stopped by the Israeli armed forces.
"These preventive attacks have significantly reduced the terrorism emanating from Sudan," explains the Africa expert. “The peace with Israel is a severe blow to Tehran and its support for global terrorism. Although they will find new smuggling routes for their allied militias, the mullahs' regime is concerned about the rapprochement between Sunni Arab states and Israel. "
While peace between Sudan and Israel is a difficult process, both sides also hope for a growing tourism industry. "It would be a dream to travel to the country where I was born," says David Elbaz, "to see the country and its people again and also to visit the only existing Jewish institution: the Jewish cemetery where my parents are buried."
After 56 years, he found two schoolmates on Facebook and is in regular contact. »We have set up a group on WhatsApp and chat every day. I'm looking forward to our meeting. "
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