Sudan wants to seal Israel deal at White House

Barak Ravid    

TEL AVIV: Three months after Sudan agreed to normalize relations with Israel, it still hasn’t signed an a-greement to formally do so. Israeli officials tell me one reason has now emerged: Sudan wants to sign the deal at the White House.

Israel sent Sudan a draft agreement for establishing diplomatic relations several weeks ago, but the Sudanese didn’t reply, Israeli officials tell me.

On Tuesday, Israeli Minister of Intelligence Eli Cohen was in Khartoum for the first-ever visit of an Israeli minister in Sudan.

He raised the issue with the head of Sudan’s governing council, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and said Israel wouldn’t be able to proceed with anticipated projects and cooperation u-ntil a formal agreement had been signed. Burhan said he was prepared to move forward — but that he wants the Biden administration to endorse the agreement and host a signing ceremony in Washington.

Between the lines: It may prove difficult to hold such a ceremony under COVID-19 restrictions, but Biden administration officials see the Sudan normalization deal as a positive step that they want to help promote.

What they’re saying: Israeli officials say previous plans to sign the agreement before Trump left office were derailed by political events in Washington. “There is no rush. We think it is a good idea to sign this agreement in Washington with the support of the Biden administration. It is important for the Sudanese, and it will strengthen the agreement,” an Israeli official told me.

What’s next: Before an agreement is signed, the Sudanese will have to cancel two laws: the Israel boycott law, which bans any trade with Israeli entities, and a law that bans Sudanese nationals from visiting Israel.