South Sudan and Israel – Unlikely Allies? South Sudan, Israel Establish Strong Alliance

Posted: December 28, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in World
Tags: ,

By Al-Jazeera,

Israel and South Sudan share no borders. The distance between their capital cities Tel Aviv and Juba is more than 3,000 kilometres. The two countries do not have any real cultural, religious or ethnic links either.
And yet, Israel was one of the first countries in the world to recognise South Sudan’s independence earlier this year. In September, Salva Kiir, the president of South Sudan, and Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, met at the sideline of the United Nations general assembly. This week, Kiir has made an official visit to Israel.
What explains this close yet discreet relationship?
Both sides described Kiir’s trip to Israel as a historic visit, and it reveals the strength of the relationship between Tel Aviv and Juba. Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, described it as a defining moment in the history of the Middle East.
Both sides have also agreed to boost their co-operation in all fields. Israel’s foothold in South Sudan is significant, as it continues its efforts to build a Christian alliance in Africa to fend off Arab influence and the growing Islamic trends there.
Observers say Israel has found fertile soil in Africa’s military conflicts to market its weapons industry and gain influence. But Israeli ties to Sudan’s southern region go back to the 1960s, when it offered aid and training to the rebels fighting the northern government. In that context, it is not surprising that it took less than 24 hours for Israel to recognise the newborn Republic of South Sudan this year.
An Israeli ambassador is due to arrive in Juba in the near future, but in a sign of just how deep the ties between the two countries are, Kiir recently told a senior member of Israel’s ruling Likud party that South Sudan would be one of a handful of countries to establish an embassy in Jerusalem, despite the city’s disputed status with regards Palestine’s claim.
So should Israel’s neighbours be worried about its ties with South Sudan? And what interest would Israel have in building another foothold in East Africa?
By Al-Jazeera,

South Sudan, Israel Establish Strong Alliance

December 27, 2011 :

Maxine Dovere
Salva Kiir Mayardit, President of the Government of Southern Sudan. Photo: Jenny Rockett.

July 12, 2011, barely two weeks after it had declared its independence from the radical Islamic state of Sudan, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised Israel’s assistance to the new nation of South Sudan “in any way.”  The Israeli Foreign Ministry announced the establishment of “full diplomatic relations with the fledgling state, now the 54th member of the African Union. Israeli flags were fully visible during the celebration of independence, a gesture of gratitude for Israel’s support during South Sudan’s long struggle for freedom, and a tribute attesting to the warmth of the two nations’ relationship. In mid December, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir was welcomed to Israel, meeting with government leaders, led by the Prime Minister.

President Kiir’s trip to Israel, one of the South Sudanese official’s first, made a strong statement. Following a visit to Yad Vashem with President Shimon Peres, Kiir said “I am very moved to be in Israel and to walk on the soil of the Promised Land. With me are all South Sudanese people…Israel has always supported the South Sudanese people. Without you, we would not have arisen. You struggled alongside us in order to allow the establishment of South Sudan and we are interested in learning from your experience.” Peres responded saying “Israel has supported, and will continue to support, your country in all areas in order to strengthen and develop it,” calling South Sudan’s independence “a milestone” in the history of the Middle East. Christian and traditional African beliefs are dominant among South Sudanese.

In July, MK Danny Danon paid an official visit to South Sudan. He was assured then that South Sudan will maintain diplomatic relations with Israel despite Arab and Palestinian pressure. Quoted in Israeli newspapers, Kiir told Danon “I see Israeli embassies in Jordan and Egypt, and South Sudan is not an Arab state.” During that meeting, Daniel Akot, the Deputy Parliament Speaker, said “Israel is like a big brother to South Sudan.”

Neighboring Sudan continues to exhibit great hostility towards Israel – Al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, former Sudanese Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition National Umma Party (NUP) called the visit of President Salva Kiir “devilish.” He said the visit is “wrong and whoever thought about it is devilish and a traitor and let us down [we] who are keen on close relations between the states of north and south”. Speaking to the Sudan Tribune, Sudan’s Foreign Minister Ali Karti said Kiir’s visit “is just a revelation of what was happening in secrecy between Tel Aviv and Sudan’s former southern rebels.” His ministry’s spokesman, Al-Obaid Marawih, had warned “that the visit poses a threat to Sudan’s national security.”

In an exclusive interview with South Sudan’s Deputy Head of Mission Deng Deng Nhial, Mr. Nhial responded to al-Mahdi’s comment, telling the Algemeiner that “after fifty years of warfare, South Sudan has become a free and independent country that will embrace democracy.” He continued, saying it is in his “country’s interest to establish friendly relations with any country that wants to be our friend. We have joined the community of nations.”

His comments were mirrored by those of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who said South Sudan’s partnership with Israel is founded on “cooperation between the two countries… based on solid foundations, relations of equality and mutual respect.”

Salva Kiir, President of the newly established country, acknowledged the recognition by Israel in Juba, the country’s capital. According to the Jerusalem Post, he has met with Jacques Revach, head of the Foreign Ministry’s Africa division, and Dan Shacham, Israel’s nonresident ambassador to a number of African countries. Speaking to Al Hurra television, in Arabic, (translated by the BBC) South Sudanese Vice President, Riek Machar, said “we will have relations with all the Arab and Muslim countries and even with Israel…As a matter of fact, we look forward to playing a role in solving the existing issues in the Arab world, even the issues between Israel and the Arab countries.”

With an area of some 644,000 square kilometers, a small population of about 10 million and rich national resources, “it is important that South Sudan develop its capacity and continue the building of institutions,” said Deputy Director of South Sudanese Mission Deng Deng Nhial. He noted that the country has established “Vision 2040.” “To meet the challenge, technical assistance in the building of institutions is very, very important so that government will be able to deliver services for the people in a stable, prosperous country.”

Still at issue between the two countries is the problem of illegal immigration. Thousands of Sudanese, many from the area now incorporated as South Sudan, have entered Israel illegally during the last decade. Dialogue concerning the repatriation of many of these immigrants is likely to be on the diplomatic agenda.

Discussion of training for Sudanese refugees already in Israel, and extensive economic and technical assistance to be provided to ease their way home, were underway during Danon’s trip in July. The Minister said then that the “luck of the Sudanese people has improved with the establishment of a new, civilized state.” He stressed the need to help South Sudanese refugees “return safely to their new state.”
“Israel’s technological wealth and South Sudan’s wealth of natural resources are a sure recipe for prosperity in both states,” he said. The Sudanese government has already agreed to the return of 10,000 refugees.

Illegal immigration is a significant problem for the Jewish State. Border Authority Director-General Amnon Ben-Ami estimates that there are over 16,000 refugees from Sudan alone in Israel.  Prime Minister Netanyahu called illegal immigration “a nationwide plague” saying “there is no obligation to take in illegal infiltrators.” (A fence along the Egyptian border, scheduled for completion by October 2012, is under construction)

At the conclusion of President Kiir’s visit, an announcement was made of a study of the construction of a “refugee city” to be built in South Sudan – with Israeli assistance. Tomar Avital, writing in the Israeli magazine Calcalist, said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and “senior ministers” had expressed support for “the construction of a massive city-like facility” to which Sudanese refugees to their country would be repatriated.  Interior Minister Eli Yishai confirmed that “negotiations were being held with officials of the African country,” and that he “would pledge funding from his ministry’s budget for each refugee returned.” Refugees already returned to Sudan, have been given “a $500 adjustment payment”. There has been no confirmation by The Foreign Ministry.

As relations are normalized with the newly independent South Sudan, Israel has had to take measures to protect its security, even in “out-of-border” operations when required. Reports in the Sudanese media, recently restated by the BBC, say that the Israeli Air Force attacked convoys which originated in Sudan. The cargo of the two convoys was believed to be Iranian weapons slated for Gaza. Officially, there has been no response from Israel. The Sudanese army has denied this attack but its foreign minister has blamed Israel for a bombing attack on a car near the Port Sudan.

Israel believes weapons are being smuggled through the region to Gaza. BBC diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus called the strike “one more reminder of the shadowy war that is being waged along Sudan’s Red Sea coast.” which “pits the Israeli military against well-organized arms smugglers seeking to get weaponry into the Gaza Strip.”

There has been no comment from Israel.

PIPES: South Sudan, Israel’s new ally

Five decades of solidarity cement relations

By Daniel Pipes

The Washington Times

Monday, January 2, 2012

Illustration by John Camejo for The Washington TimesIllustration by John Camejo for The Washington Times

It’s not every day that the leader of a brand-new country makes his maiden foreign voyage to Jerusalem, capital of the most besieged country in the world, but Salva Kiir, president of South Sudan, accompanied by his foreign and defense ministers, did just that in late December. Israeli President Shimon Peres hailed his visit as a “moving and historic moment.” The visit spurred talk of South Sudan locating its embassy in Jerusalem, which would make it the only government anywhere in the world to do so. This unusual development results from an unusual story.

Today’s Sudan took shape in the 19th century, when the Ottoman Empire controlled its northern regions and tried to conquer the southern ones. The British, ruling out of Cairo, established the outlines of the modern state in 1898 and for the next 50 years separately ruled the Muslim north and Christian-animist south. In 1948, however, succumbing to northern pressure, the British merged the two administrations in Khartoum under northern control, making Muslims dominant in Sudan and Arabic the official language. Accordingly, independence in 1956 brought civil war as southerners battled to fend off Muslim hegemony. Fortunately for them, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion’s “periphery strategy” translated into Israeli support for non-Arabs in the Middle East, including the southern Sudanese. The government of Israel served through the first Sudanese civil war, lasting until 1972, as the primary source of moral backing, diplomatic help and armaments for the southern Sudanese.

Mr. Kiir acknowledged this contribution in Jerusalem, noting that “Israel has always supported the South Sudanese people. Without you, we would not have arisen. You struggled alongside us in order to allow the establishment of South Sudan.” In reply, Mr. Peres recalled his presence in the early 1960s in Paris, when then-Prime Minister Levi Eshkol and he initiated Israel’s first-ever link with southern Sudanese leaders. Sudan’s civil war continued intermittently from 1956 until 2005. Over time, Muslim northerners became increasingly vicious toward their southern co-nationals, culminating in the 1980-90s with massacres, chattel slavery and genocide. Given Africa’s many tragedies, such problems might not have made an impression on compassion-weary Westerners except for an extraordinary effort led by two modern-day American abolitionists.

Starting in the mid-1990s, John Eibner of Christian Solidarity International redeemed tens of thousands of slaves in Sudan, while Charles Jacobs of the American Anti-Slavery Group led a Sudan Campaign in the United States that brought together a wide coalition of organizations. As all Americans abhor slavery, the abolitionists formed a unique alliance of left and right, including Democratic Rep. Barney Frank and Republican Sen. Sam Brownback, the Congressional Black Caucus and Pat Robertson, black pastors and white evangelicals. In contrast, the Nation of Islam’s Minister Louis Farrakhan was exposed and embarrassed by his attempts to deny slavery’s existence in Sudan. The abolitionist effort culminated in 2005 when the George W. Bush administration pressured Khartoum to sign the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the war and gave southerners a chance to vote for independence. They enthusiastically did so in January 2011, when 98 percent voted for secession from Sudan, leading to the formation of the Republic of South Sudan six months later, an event hailed by Mr. Peres as “a milestone in the history of the Middle East.”

Israel’s long-term investment has paid off. South Sudan fits into a renewed periphery strategy that includes Cyprus, Kurds, Berbers and, perhaps one day, a post-Islamist Iran. South Sudan offers access to natural resources, especially oil. Its role in Nile River water negotiations offers leverage vis-a-vis Egypt. Beyond practical benefits, the new republic represents an inspiring example of a non-Muslim population resisting Islamic imperialism through its integrity, persistence and dedication. In this sense, the birth of South Sudan echoes that of Israel. If Mr. Kiir’s Jerusalem visit is truly to mark a milestone, South Sudan must travel the long path from dirt-poor, international protectorate with feeble institutions to modernity and genuine independence. This path requires the leadership not to exploit the new state’s resources or dream of creating a “New Sudan” by conquering Khartoum, but to lay the foundations for successful statehood.

For Israelis and other Westerners, this means helping with agriculture, health and education and urging Juba to stay focused on defense and development while avoiding wars of choice. A successful South Sudan could eventually become a regional power and a stalwart ally not just of Israel but of the West.

Daniel Pipes ( is president of the Middle East Forum and a visiting fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s