Sudan is set to be the next country to normalize ties with Israel, the Jerusalem Post reported Thursday.
The African country reportedly made the decision to proceed with increased Israeli engagement after Washington issued a 24-hour ultimatum, demanding Sudan recognize Israel in order to gain removal from the United States' list of countries that sponsor terrorism. The ultimatum also offered to roll back travel restrictions on Sudan, which are a legacy of the 2017 travel ban issued by the Trump administration.
"Establishing ties with Israel is a Sudanese interest," said Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, deputy chairman of the Sudanese Sovereignty Council, earlier this month. "Our removal from the list of state sponsors of terror depends on it."
Sudan, much like Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, is a Muslim-majority country that has historically been opposed to Israeli interests. Until September 2020, Sudan was under explicit and constitutionally sanctioned Islamic rule for 30 years. During that period punishments for apostasy included severe flogging, and an alcohol ban existed for all citizens. Bahrain and the UAE have similar restrictions on religious freedom in place.
Such restrictions speak to the progress made by Washington and Jerusalem in recent months, which has often been downplayed by the mainstream media. As the stigma of engaging with Israel disappears, American diplomats expect more countries to sign agreements with the Jewish state.
The big target and challenge for Washington and Jerusalem remains normalizing relations with Saudi Arabia, a country that has long been a linchpin for stability in the Middle East.
To this end, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Saudi foreign minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud on Wednesday to discuss a series of issues, including increasing security cooperation to counter Iran and next steps for Riyadh following the historic Abraham Accords.
"We hope Saudi Arabia will consider normalizing its relationships as well, and we want to thank them for the assistance they’ve had in the success of the Abraham Accords so far," Pompeo said. "We hope, too, that the Kingdom will encourage the Palestinian side to return to dialogue and negotiation with Israel."