Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday officially recognized the new Republic of South Sudan, and welcomed it into the global family of nations.
"Yesterday, a new state was born, South Sudan. I hereby announce that Israel recognizes the Republic of South Sudan," Netanyahu said at Sunday's cabinet meeting. "We wish it success. This is a peace-seeking country and we would be pleased to cooperate with it in order to ensure its development and its prosperity."
South Sudan's first president, Salva Kiir, hinted months ago that the new nation would establish diplomatic ties with Israel.
The Arab-dominated northern Sudan has a long history of hostility toward the Jewish state. But the black African residents of the south are by and large not Muslim, and therefore do not harbor the same enmity for Israel.
Some Israeli politicians also hope the new Republic of South Sudan will provide a solution to the Sudanese refugee situation in Israel.
Thousands of Sudanese refugees today reside in Israel after fleeing conflicts in Darfur and other parts of Sudan over the past decade. Israel is ill-equipped to handle and assimilate this foreign community given its own demographic problems, but has largely felt a moral obligation to not turn them away.
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