On September 7, 2016, Haaretz reported that Israel had allegedly “contacted the U.S. government and other Western countries and encouraged them to” strengthen their diplomatic ties with Sudan—a country with one of the worst human rights records in the world.
Sudanese President, Omar Al-Bashir, has ruled over his country with an iron fist since a military coup brought him to power nearly thirty years ago. Most notably, Bashir’s infamous campaign of genocide in Darfur made him the first sitting head of state to ever be indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity, genocide, and war crimes.
Given Bashir’s dark history, why is Israel now seeking to uplift Sudan’s diplomatic standing in the international arena?
Through its brutal and longstanding occupation of Palestine, Israel has maintained a comparably appalling human rights record—one that gives it much in common with Bashir’s Sudan. In light of this, one might think Israel wants to assuage the war crimes of other countries (like Sudan) in order to cover up and justify its own atrocities.
But, the truth is that Israel’s interest in bolstering ties between the West and Sudan is primarily due to Bashir’s shifting political and diplomatic alliance with Iran—a country that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu considers, according to the Times of Israel, to be “the greatest threat to Israel’s security, to the stability of the region, and to the peace of the world.”
For years, Iran has used Sudan as a “base” to facilitate the transfer of weapons to Hamas in the Gaza Strip, something that Israel has sought to end. Following increased pressure from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states over the past year, and in exchange for promises of economic benefits, Sudan finally ended its longtime relationship with Iran in January 2016.
To Israel’s joy and benefit, this political and diplomatic transition effectively closed the window for Iran to continue funneling weapons to Gaza through Sudan. Now, Israel is attempting to soften Sudan’s image in the West through a form of “shuttle diplomacy,” in order to ensure relations between Sudan and Iran are never re-established.
Bizarrely, for a country that regularly reminds the world that it is the only democracy in the region, Israel is quite dedicated to upholding and preserving dictatorships that are beneficial to its interests. In July, for example, Netanyahu praised Israel’s growing ties with the military dictatorship of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi in Egypt.
It only requires a small amount of foresight to realize that Israel’s diplomatic ambitions toward Sudan are ultimately intended to validate, smoothen, and preserve its illegal occupation of Palestine. Open support for international dictators is a prefect reminder of Israel’s limitless willingness to maintain the status quo.
If anything, Israel has made it clear that it is willing to turn a blind eye to fascism abroad (and even help maintain it) as long as it helps secure its interests at home, no matter who else may suffer as a result.