NEW YORK – A Sudanese cleric has come to the defense of a minister who recently said that normalization of ties between Sudan and Israel would be “no big deal” and the Palestinians bear “much of the responsibility” for the conflict.
In an interview on Sudanese television, Mubarak Al-Fadil Al-Mahdi, Sudan’s minister for investment, declared that a move to establish ties with Israel should be based “on the interests of Sudan” and not on emotions. Al-Mahdi added that the “Palestinians themselves have normalized their relations with Israel.”
“The entire issue is very complex. It’s not black and white. The Palestinians themselves meet with the Israelis. They coexist with the Israelis, earn their living there and get their electricity from them. These people live together,” he said, according to a translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute.
“I think that the Palestinians share much of the responsibility for what has happened to them. They sold their lands and caused many problems. The Arabs made grave mistakes by rejecting the Partition Plan and other resolutions,” he said.
He also said the “Palestinian cause” was to blame for stunting progress in the Arab world.
“I believe that the Palestinian cause has delayed the progress of the Arab world, and has been exploited by the Arab regimes to oppress their peoples, under the guise of the struggle for the sake of Palestine,” he said.
Al-Mahdi was slammed for his comments, with many calling for his resignation.
However, Sudanese opposition figure and cleric Yousuf Al-Koda, who is the head of the Islamic Al-Wasat party, agreed with Al-Mahdi, saying that countries that have normalized relations with Israel have only benefited.
Writing in the Akhir Lahza newspaper last month, Al-Koda notes that Arabs have been boycotting Jews long before the establishment of the State of Israel.
“The question remains, What have we achieved by this? Is this a boycott for its own sake, or does it have a specific goal, namely to pressure Israel to comply [with the Arabs’ demands]?” Al-Koda asks, according to a translation by MEMRI.
He continued by saying that those Arab nations who maintain the boycott “incur great damage” to themselves. Furthermore, Al-Koda says, those countries that do not actively pursue a boycott with Israel actually do more to assist the Palestinian cause.
Al-Koda concludes that “there is no choice but to abandon the useless boycott and turn to [the option of] establishing ties with Israel.”
In the original television interview aired in August, Al-Mahdi also said that Arab countries that do not boycott Israel have benefited from a relationship with the Jewish state and the Palestinians themselves have ties with Israel.
“The Arab countries think about their own interests. In Egypt, the Israelis developed the citrus agriculture. They introduced drip irrigation.”
“I think we have been swept away by our emotions without realizing it. Those Palestinians, everywhere, do anything in their power to have you fired. Ask any Sudanese working in the Gulf or anywhere, and he will tell you that whenever he meets a Palestinian, that Palestinian feels nothing for him,” he said.
“The Israelis are Westerners. They were ‘imported’ from America, Russia, Europe and so on. They have the moral values of Westerners,” he said. “They operate scientifically. They have a democratic regime, their presidents stand trial and go to jail. … They have a transparent regime, whether you agree with them or not.”
The Gaza-based terror group Hamas slammed Al-Mahdi’s “provocative and racist remarks.”
The U.S. has demanded Sudan normalize ties with Israel as a precondition for lifting sanctions on Khartoum. Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour said in response, “We don’t mind studying any such proposal.”
However, responding to the backlash generated by Al-Mahdi’s interview, Ghandour seemed to walk back on those comments, saying that until a Palestinian state is established there will be no official change in his country’s position on Israel. According to MEMRI, Ghandour also called on Al-Mahdi and all government ministers to ensure that going forward, their personal opinions are not misconstrued as official government stances.
According to Israeli Communications Minister Ayoub Kara (Likud), Sudan and Israel have maintained covert ties over the years.
Watch Al-Mahdi’s original interview below: