Netanyahu Lauds Maiden Israeli Flight over Sudan Skies

Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a meeting with the heads of local regional councils, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Thursday, Feb. 5, 2009. General elections in Israel are scheduled for Feb. 10 and pre-election polls show Netanyahu with a lead over Foreign Minister and Kadima Party leader Tzipi Livni.(AP …
AP/Ariel Schalit

TEL AVIV – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that an Israeli plane made a historic first flight over Sudan only two weeks after he met with the Arab state’s leader in Uganda.

“I’ve been developing contacts with the Arab countries and Muslim countries, and I can tell you there’s scarcely one, two, three Muslim or Arab countries around the world that we don’t have deepened ties with,” he said at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem.

Israel and Sudan, he said, are “discussing rapid normalization.” He noted that Sudan is “an Arab, or rather a Muslim country, speaking Arabic, that hosted the Khartoum Conference. And in Khartoum they have all the no’s against Israel. Remember the no’s? No recognition, no Israel basically.”

Earlier this month, Netanyahu met secretly in Entebbe, Uganda, with Sudanese leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.

“It was agreed to start cooperation leading to normalization of the relationship between the two countries,” an Israeli statement said at the time.

Sudan and Israel are erstwhile enemies, with Khartoum being the backdrop to the infamous “Three No’s” issued by the Arab League during its summit in the Sudanese capital in 1967. Arab states at the time agreed that there would be “no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, and no negotiations with it.”

Until recently, Sudan was considered by Israel to be a security threat over Iran’s suspected use of the country to smuggle arms into the Gaza Strip. However, Khartoum has distanced itself from Iran over its involvement in Yemen and that, together with the ouster last year of country’s longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir, means that the threat no longer exists.

Netanyahu said Sunday’s flight over Sudan marked “quite a change” and cut about three hours of flight time to South America.

“I’m just telling you what is above the surface. How much is above the surface in an iceberg? It’s about 10 percent. What you’re seeing is about 10 percent. Vast changes are coming because Israel is now a power to contend with, and because collaboration with Israel helps you prepare, secure the future of your people and ensure a better future for your people,” he said.

The meeting between Netanyahu and al-Burhan came days after Sudan joined the Arab League in rejecting President Donald Trump’s recently unveiled Middle East peace plan.

The Palestinians slammed the meeting as a “stab in the back.”

“This meeting is a stab in the back of the Palestinian people and a stark departure from the Arab Peace Initiative at a time when the administration of President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu are trying to liquidate the Palestinian cause,” senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat told the Palestinian Authority’s official news agency WAFA.

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