It’s a policy colloquially known as the “Three Nos” that’s supposed to dictate how Arab governments deal with Israel.
The policy takes its name from an agreement passed by the Arab League in 1967 in the wake of the Six-Day War; the Khartoum Resolution, reached in the capital of Sudan, laid out in no uncertain language, in its third paragraph, how the Jewish state was to be dealt with:
“The Arab Heads of State have agreed to unite their political efforts at the international and diplomatic level to eliminate the effects of the aggression and to ensure the withdrawal of the aggressive Israeli forces from the Arab lands which have been occupied since the aggression of June 5,” the agreement stated.
“This will be done within the framework of the main principles by which the Arab States abide, namely, no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it, and insistence on the rights of the Palestinian people in their own country.”
That meeting was chaired by Ismai’il al-Azhari, then the president of Sudan.
On Friday, Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and Gen. Abdel-Fattah al-Burhan, the military leader of Sudan’s transitional military government, were both on a conference call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Donald Trump to make peace with Israel — and the irony wasn’t lost on Netanyahu, who noted the “Three Nos.”
“Whereas today, Khartoum says yes to peace with Israel, yes to recognition of Israel and to normalization with Israel,” he said, according to The Washington Post.
The agreement, 11 days before the presidential election in the United States, was another coup in Middle East peace for President Trump. Sudan became the third Arab state in recent weeks to normalize relations with Israel in recent weeks after the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. All of those deals had the president as a middleman.
It was big enough that even on the viciously anti-Trump CNN, international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson described it in positive terms.
“It’s certainly what Trump is looking for and has been looking for, [an] international foreign policy win, and he’ll certainly chalk this up as that,” Robertson said. “And I think that some people, you know, they’ll see that Trump “has succeeded in the Middle East where other presidents have failed.”
— Steve Guest (@SteveGuest) October 23, 2020
The announcement came as Sudan was taken off of the United States’ list of state sponsors of terrorism and the country agreed to pay millions to Americans who fell victim to terrorism.
“After decades of living under a brutal dictatorship, the people of Sudan are finally taking charge,” a statement issued by the three countries read.
“The Sudanese transitional government has demonstrated its courage and commitment to combating terrorism, building its democratic institutions, and improving its relations with its neighbors.”
Trump said during the conference call that “at least five” other countries were looking to normalize relations with Israel separate from any conditions involving Palestine.
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’ reaction to the agreement, unsurprisingly, was negative.
“The Palestinian presidency affirms its condemnation and rejection of normalized relations with the Israeli occupation state that usurps the land of Palestine,” Abbas’ office said in a statement, according to Palestinian media.
“This contradicts the decisions of the Arab summits, as well as the Arab peace initiatives approved by the Arab and Islamic summits and the U.N. Security Council.”
What was most striking about the deal, however, is how different the normalization of relations between Sudan and Israel is from the previous normalizations by the UAE or Bahrain.
Both the UAE and Bahrain are relatively developed economies with stable governments. While neither could be called a flourishing democracy where open debate is roundly encouraged — or won’t end with one of the debaters in jail — neither has a history of genocide. The decision may not have been met with unmixed delight among the populace in either country, but neither nation was a hotbed of anti-Israel sentiment.
However, as Jerusalem Post senior editor Lahav Harkov pointed out in a column on Saturday, Sudan “is a country where the hatred of Israel was clear for decades. It was a way station for Iranian arms going to Hamas and Hezbollah until fairly recently; Israel repeatedly bombed Sudan to stop the weapons from reaching their destinations.”
Its government also isn’t particularly stable. In 2019, dictator Omar al-Bashir was deposed amid widespread demonstrations in the country. He’s already been convicted on corruption charges and in July, a case against him for the 1989 coup that brought him to power began. He’s also under indictment by the International Criminal Court for human rights violations committed in Darfur, including charges of genocide. According to the BBC, the current government plans to hand him over to the tribunal.
All of that means the transitional government was taking a risk by normalizing relations, particularly given the anti-Israel sentiment in Sudan is far more visceral and that the government is less secure. As Harkov noted, “it’s likely that in a situation where a transitional government is making an unpopular move, that this normalization process will be much slower than the ones with the UAE and Bahrain – where the move is not popular with the Shi’ite majority, either, but the Sunni government is relatively stable.”
Aside from the security aspect and the symbolism of the matter, Israel also benefits from Sudan agreeing to let its commercial airliners fly over Sudanese airspace.
The African country is on the southern border of Egypt.
“The skies of Sudan are open to Israel today. This allows for direct and shorter flights between Israel and Africa and South America,” Netanyahu said during the phone call.
Trump said Friday that there “would be many more peace deals to come in the Middle East,” according to National Review.
“We have many lined up. They want to come in, get the deal done,” Trump said. “Three months ago no one thought this was possible. Even Bibi didn’t know if this was possible.”
And then there was the one line that, as always, the media jumped on: Trump questioning Netanyahu whether “Sleepy Joe” Biden could have gotten the deal done.
According to The Post, Netanyahu paused and then said, “Mr. President, one thing I can tell you is, we appreciate the help for peace from anyone in America.”
Of course, what’s supposed to rile us up is that Trump would even ask such a thing. An Israeli prime minister knows his country needs to be on good terms with any American president. With a pending presidential election, Netanyahu can’t afford to alienate any candidate who could be in the Oval Office in 2021.
What likely riled The Post up is that, if Netanyahu were in a position to give an honest answer, it probably wouldn’t be a yes.
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