The Surprise Change in Pompeo’s Mideast Peace Trip

How peace with Sudan could disrupt the very foundations of the Arab-Israeli conflict

Peace between Israel and Sudan would disrupt the foundations of the conflict.
Matty Stern/U.S. Embassy Jerusalem

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo touched down in Israel on Monday for the start of a week-long visit to several Middle East nations aimed at building upon the recent announcement of normalization between the Jewish state and the United Arab Emirates.

Pompeo was originally scheduled to fly from Israel over to the Persian Gulf for meetings in Bahrain, Oman and the UAE, before stopping over in Sudan.

But, Israel’s N12 news portal reported that a surprise chance to the itinerary will now see Pompeo fly directly from Israel to Sudan before heading to the Gulf.

This is significant in that it is the first time Sudan has allowed a direct flight from Israel to land in its territory.

Talk of warming relations between Israel and Sudan have been rife since February of this year, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met secretly with Sudanese President Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. There is much speculation that Sudan could be the next regional country after the UAE to make peace with Israel.

What can Sudan offer?

While normalization with the UAE holds many benefits for Israel, some might wonder if the same is true of peace with Sudan.

Sure, peace with any Arab (or Arab League) state is important, and being able to fly over Sudan will significantly cut travel times from Israel to other parts of the world. But there are few direct economic benefits, and it’s doubtful many Israelis will see Sudan as a tourism destination.

But there is one symbolic aspect to peace with Sudan that makes it as notable as deals with bigger fish like the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

The Sudanese capital of Khartoum played host to the 1967 Arab League summit held in the wake of the Six Day War.

The resulting resolution called for, among other things, the entirety of the Arab world to remain in a constant state of war with Israel until all “occupied” lands had been liberated.

Specifically, the resolution contains what came to be known as the “Three No’s”:

  1. No peace with Israel;
  2. No recognition of Israel; and
  3. No negotiations with it.

The Khartoum Resolution became the cornerstone of the Arabs’ rejectionist approach to Israel.

For the very state that birthed that resolution to now be seriously considering peace with Israel, even in the absence of a Palestinian state, reflects the dramatic changes that have been reshaping the region over the past several years.

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