Daily Briefing: NEW ERA OPENS BETWEEN ISRAEL AND AFRICAN AND ARAB COUNTRIES (February 10, 2020)

Abdel Fattah al-Burhan meeting with Vladimir Putin in Sochi (Source: Wikipedia)

Table of Contents:

Israel Sees Dawn of a New Era as African and Arab Countries Seek Diplomatic Cooperation: Israel Kassnet, JNS, Feb. 6, 2020


Netanyahu’s Uganda Visit Represents Israel’s Growing Ties with Africa JPostEditorial, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 3, 2020


Netanyahu’s Africa Blitz: Photo-ops and Pleasing the US:  Rina Bassist, Al-Monitor, Feb. 5, 2020


Israel Could Be Key to 2020 Middle East Geopolitics: Frank Musmar, BESA, Jan. 2, 2020

______________________________________________________

Israel Sees Dawn of a New Era as African and Arab 
Countries Seek Diplomatic Cooperation
Israel Kassnet
JNS, Feb. 6, 2020

When eight Arab countries gathered in 1967 in Khartoum, Sudan, to condemn Israel just months after the Six-Day War and announce what became known as the “Three No’s”—no peace, no recognition, no negotiations—none of them could have imagined that 53 years later, Sudan’s leader would go out of his way to meet an Israeli leader to say “yes” to establishing diplomatic relations.

And that is exactly what happened this week when Sudanese Gen. Abdel-Fattah al-Burhan, the head of Sudan’s transitional government, flew to Uganda to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was there for a meeting with its leader, Yoweri Museveni.

Dore Gold, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, told JNS the meeting between Netanyahu and al-Burhan was the “crowning achievement” of the prime minister’s visit. “This week is a week in which the Arab world is being mobilized by the PLO to oppose the Trump plan,” he said. “And if you are going to expect anything this week, it would be Arab states pulling back from Israel. What is so ironic with the Sudanese move is that Israel is being embraced by Sudan precisely at a time when the Arab League is pulling back.”

“That also makes this into a very big deal,” he added.

For Israel, the meeting marks a major step towards improving ties with both African and Arab countries.

Gold, previously director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, had a hand in furthering Israel’s diplomatic ties in Africa. Israel renewed diplomatic ties with Guinea in 2016. After Netanyahu visited Chad for a renewal of ties in 2019, it was reported that Israel was working to formalize ties with Sudan. According to Gold, Sudan is a huge country with a contemporary history, “which made it one of the centers of jihadi Islam for many years.”

Gold referred back to the 1990s, when Hassan Turabi, Sudan’s leader at the time, hosted a dozen or more terror organizations for their annual meeting, and which included the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, the PLO and Hezbollah. “The most infamous guest of the Sudanese government in the ’90s was a Saudi dissident named Osama bin Laden,” he said. “So that makes Sudan a very significant place.”

Sudan, which is an Arab-Muslim-majority country that borders Egypt to the south, has long been viewed as a hostile nation towards the Jewish state.

Sudan is desperate to have sanctions lifted and be removed from the list as a state sponsor of terror. It wants to end its isolation and rebuild its economy after a popular uprising last year that toppled the country’s leader, Omar al-Bashir—considered a war criminal by the international community for his role in the Darfur genocide—and installed the joint civilian-military sovereign council headed by al-Burhan. The country is scheduled to hold elections in 2022 as part of its transition to democracy under the interim government. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
___________________________________________________

Netanyahu’s Uganda Visit Represents Israel’s Growing Ties with Africa
JPost Editorial
Jerusalem Post, Feb. 3, 2020

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Uganda on Monday was an important trip and represents the growing Israeli relationship with African states. This is a historic area where Israel has – in the past – had many friends. In the 1950s and 1960s Israel opened its doors to Africa, helping the newly independent states there and seeking to share knowledge with them.

However, the relationships soured in the 1970s due to pressure from Arab and Islamic states. Now a new era seems to be arriving. The prime minister says that Israelis are “returning to Africa in a big way. Africa already returned to Israel. These are very important ties for diplomacy, for the economy, for security – and more will be revealed.”

Africa is a burgeoning continent that is growing at a rapid pace, although it faces many struggles. Many countries there can benefit from Israeli technology and know-how. They benefit because Israel is not just a “start-up nation” but it is also a state that grew from the desert and had to become self-sufficient without major resources like oil. Like many sub-Saharan African states, Israel was a victim of the colonial era and foreign attempts to draw arbitrary borders that have saddled it with conflicts.

How might Israeli relations with African countries benefit both? First of all, African states are increasingly becoming linked to other economies such as China, Russia, Turkey and India. This rise of the global south is important because it is essentially in these places that Israeli technology and security expertise can help. In the Sahel in Africa, rising Islamist insurgencies are killing hundreds every month. From Somalia to Mali there are threats. States such as Niger, Burkina Faso, Kenya and even Uganda are threatened. Israel knows these threats well, having suffered from terrorism for more than 70 years. Much more can be done – not just through defense sales, which are only 2% of the total compared to other continents due to controversy as to whether countries commit human rights abuses, but through civil trade and hands-on training.

Netanyahu and his governments have set a priority on Africa relations. This goes back to 2009 with then-foreign minister Avigdor Liberman’s 2009 and 2014 trips. This has seen increased trips and a number of firsts. The first visit of Liberia’s president, a visit from Chad, the first ambassadors from Guinea and Senegal, the first visit by an Israeli head of state to Ethiopia. There are growing relations with Rwanda and other states.

That is a positive outcome of Netanyahu’s ten-year role as prime minister. Now that Israel is facing new elections, it is important for all parties to take into account African-Israeli ties and to emphasize how we can all work together towards a bright future. In some cases, relations have temporarily soured. For instance, Senegal is an important diplomatic post for Israel, but its vote on a United Nations resolution against Israel in 2016 caused tensions with the government in Jerusalem. Things were only recently patched up. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
______________________________________________________

Netanyahu’s Africa Blitz: Photo-ops and Pleasing the US
Rina Bassist
Al-Monitor, Feb. 5, 2020

Sudan reported Feb. 2 that Washington had invited head of its Sovereign Council Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan for a visit. The following day, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Uganda, secretly meeting there with Burhan. After the meeting, Netanyahu announced proudly to the world that Israel and Sudan, two enemy countries, agreed to work together toward normalizing ties. A statement issued by Netanyahu’s office noted that the prime minister believed the current Sudanese regime is headed in a new positive direction, and that he had also expressed this view to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. “Burhan is eager to help his country modernize by taking it out of isolation and putting it on the world’s map,” the statement read.

Indeed, Netanyahu’s diplomatic blitz was applauded not just in Jerusalem, but also in Washington. Pompeo praised both countries, congratulating Burhan on “his leadership in normalizing ties with Israel.” In Sudan, on the other hand, things looked a bit different, with the government cautiously noting that Burhan informed no one and consulted no one before taking off to Uganda. Clearly, the road to normalizing ties between Khartoum and Jerusalem is not going to be as smooth as presented by Netanyahu in Kampala.

Israel and Sudan have a turbulent past, with two issues at the crux of animosity: Iran and the conflict with the Palestinians. Back in January 2009, mysterious fighter jets attacked an Iranian arms convoy in the Sudanese desert. In April that year, an Iranian vessel laden with arms bound for the Gaza Strip was torpedoed off the coast of Sudan. Khartoum suspected that Israel was behind the attacks, in an attempt to thwart arms smuggling into Gaza. The toppling of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in April 2019 changed the country’s priorities, with its new leaders distancing themselves from Tehran. But what exactly do the current leaders in Khartoum expect from Israel?

Over the past decade, Netanyahu has invested much efforts in cultivating Israeli ties with African states, or in his own words, “bringing Israel back to Africa.” He had stated on numerous occasions that Africa is part of Israel’s list of diplomatic priorities. Netanyahu made no secret of the fact that he was hoping to change the balance of power within the United Nations through this African campaign. He argued that Israel needs the African countries on its side in its UN battles against the Palestinians. Still, he kept noting that his African efforts embodied Israel’s long-term vision of showcasing its commitment to share with others its best practices and technologies in fields that include smart agriculture, water management, high-tech and health innovation. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
______________________________________________________

Israel Could Be Key to 2020 Middle East Geopolitics
Frank Musmar
BESA, Jan. 2, 2020

The geopolitics of the Middle East are changing rapidly, and competition among the key players is at a peak. The region straddles the three continents of Asia, Africa, and Europe, lending it great geopolitical significance. The Middle East overlooks the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean, and the Black Sea. It contains three of the world’s leading waterways: The Strait of Hormuz, the Bab al-Mandeb Strait, and the Suez Canal. The Middle East is also the top oil supplier in the world and has its largest oil and gas reserves.

For the US, the security of Israel is one of the most critical determinants of its positions on Middle East security in the wake of the so-called “Arab Spring.” Although Israel is separate from the changes brought about by those uprisings, it can’t help but be affected by them. They shocked Jerusalem as well as the other regional actors, but it has been able to deal with the changes.

The fear of Iran and its hegemonic ambitions has pushed Saudi Arabia and the UAE toward further cooperation with Israel and the US. For over a decade, the Jewish state has been strengthening links with Gulf monarchies with which it has no diplomatic relations. Jerusalem’s strategic views regarding Iran’s regional ambitions and US policies during the “Arab Spring” converged with those of Riyadh, the UAE, and Bahrain. Longstanding Israeli security and commercial ties with the Gulf, which are now becoming more visible, look set to develop further (though overt military cooperation remains improbable).  Israel is seeking active cooperation with Egypt, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority in the field of counter-terrorism.

The current landscape in the Middle East is bringing new policy priorities to the fore, with the Arab states no longer dancing to the Palestinians’ tune. Those states have their own more immediate concerns, and the ongoing conflict between Hamas and Fatah has undermined Palestinian efforts to solicit Arab assistance. Some Arab states have begun to openly acknowledge the right of the Jewish People to its ancestral homeland.

While Turkey’s location is usually viewed as a significant advantage in the energy sphere, since the countries in its vicinity require its collaboration to transport oil and natural gas via economically feasible pipeline projects, the political, economic, and military conflicts among those same global and regional actors not only hinder the development of energy transportation routes but present a significant foreign policy challenge for Ankara, which has traditionally sought to maintain a careful balance in its relations with the West and Russia.

The discovery of gas reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean has been met with enthusiasm due to their potential impact on the economic, geopolitical, and political balance of the region. The new reserves could have a significant positive effect on Europe’s gas-diversification strategy, enabling EU countries to realize their long-held goal of significantly reducing their dependence on Russian gas imports.

In December 2017, Cyprus, Israel, Italy, and Greece signed a memorandum “to explore the possibility of the construction of a natural gas pipeline linking [the] Leviathan [field] to European markets.” The European Commission (EC) has labeled the project technically feasible and economically viable, stating that it “strongly supports” the project.

In December 2018, at a meeting in Beersheba, the leaders of Greece, Cyprus, and Israel officially said they were ready to sign an intergovernmental agreement on the East-Med pipeline project. US ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who was present at the meeting, labeled the project “of great importance for the stability and prosperity of the Middle East and Europe.” If the project comes to fruition, Israel can eventually become a regional energy hub—a significant change from its historical geopolitical position.
__________________________________________________

For Further Reference:

Netanyahu in Uganda to Meet Regional Leaders:  Noa Landau, Haaretz, Feb. 3, 2020– Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has arrived Monday for a one-day visit to Uganda, where he is set to meet with leaders of other East African countries.

Sudanese Leader Backs Recognizing Israel in Historic Shift:  Ivan Levingston and Fred Ojambo, Bloomberg, Feb. 3, 2020Sudan’s military leader met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and agreed to work toward normalizing relations, in what would be a historic step for the Arab League member that’s never officially recognized the Jewish state.

Israel Comes Full Circle with Sudan:  Dore Gold, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Feb. 4, 2020Upon hearing of a breakthrough in the relationship between Israel and Sudan, Israelis will undoubtedly have a sense that their country has come full circle.

How Israel is Bringing Water and Energy to Africa:  Alan Rosenbaum, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 20, 2019Innovation:Africa, an American-Israeli organization that brings Israeli solar, water, and agricultural technologies to rural African villages, is one of the three winners of the 2019 InnoDip Award for innovative diplomacy.

Think About the Suffering of your People, UN Guterres tell South Sudanese Leaders:  Sudan Tribune, Feb. 9, 2020Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General Saturday said what is happening in the world latest nation is “unacceptable” and urged the country’s leaders to think about the suffering they cause to the South Sudanese people.