After UAE and Bahrain deals, Trump said aiming for direct Israel-Morocco flights

By TOI staff

14/09/2020 – Rabat and Jerusalem have no formal relations, but Israeli tourists are allowed into the country, which is home to the largest Jewish community in the Arab world

US President Donald Trump is looking toward following up the landmark normalization deals between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain with the introduction of direct flights between Israel and Morocco, Channel 12 news reported Saturday.

Morocco is considered an ally of the United States, and has long maintained informal but close intelligence ties with Israel. Continuer à lire … « After UAE and Bahrain deals, Trump said aiming for direct Israel-Morocco flights »

Morocco, Israel set to establish direct flights: Report

Ismaeel Naar, Al Arabiya English

14/09/2020 – Israel and Morocco are set to announce direct flights as part of the next step in US efforts to facilitate normalization efforts between Israel and Arab states, according to Israeli Channel 12.

The Channel 12 report also said Israel is currently in talks with Sudan regarding plans to send a humanitarian aid plane carrying much-needed assistance amid major flash floods.

The report comes a day after Bahrain joined the United Arab Emirates in striking an agreement to normalize relations with Israel.

Israel has so far normalized ties with Egypt, Jordan, the UAE and Bahrain. The country still does not have formal ties with either Morocco or Sudan.

Bahrain and the UAE will formally sign their peace agreements with Israel at a signing ceremony on September 15 at the White House.

Al-Arabiya

Sahel-Elite (Bamako-Mali)

 

Report: Mossad chief met Sudanese official (Arutz Sheva)

Elad Benari, Canada

22/08/2020- Mossad chief Yossi Cohen met with a senior Sudanese official in a meeting that was organized and hosted by the United Arab Emirates, the Al-Araby Al-Jadeed newspaper reported on Friday. Continuer à lire … « Report: Mossad chief met Sudanese official (Arutz Sheva) »

Implications of UAE-Israeli peace

The impact of UAE-Israeli normalisation could extend far beyond the Palestinian issue to touch all the region’s crises, recasting regional power balances, writes Khaled Hanafi Ali.

By Khaled Hanafi Ali

19/08/2020 – The repercussions of the announced UAE-Israeli peace agreement will ricochet throughout all the current crises in the Middle East, not least the Libyan conflict. The impacts, moreover, could be quite pronounced given the possibility that normalisation could lead to explicit forms of coordination in the handling of crises in which it has been previously difficult to untangle the threads of influence, whether from Turkey, Iran or other parties. 

Despite the many reports on an Israeli role in the Libyan crisis, their substance remains uncorroborated, officially refuted and sometimes attributable to the disputants’ mutual smear campaigns. However, an attempt to identify the areas of convergence between Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi on the Libyan crisis and its geopolitical significance in the MENA region could help form a picture of the potential effects of that historic agreement, the mere timing of which has implications that extend well beyond UAE-Israeli bilateral relations and the Palestinian cause to the whole intricate web of regional power balances. 

MINIMISING TURKISH INFLUENCE: As we know, Abu Dhabi supports the Cyrenaica-based Libyan National Army (LNA) coalitions that have encountered major setbacks following Turkish military intervention in the battle of Tripoli. It was the heavy weaponry and mercenaries that Turkey transferred to Libya that shifted the military balances on the ground in favour of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA). 

To Tel Aviv, Turkish expansion into Libya presents a threat in the framework of that crisis’s relationship with the conflict over energy resources in the Eastern Mediterranean. The Turkish-Libyan axis could obstruct the Israeli project to deliver natural gas to Europe via Cyprus and Greece by means of the EastMed pipeline, the accord for which was signed by the leaders of Greece, Cyprus and Israel in January 2020. That project conflicts with areas covered by the agreement signed between Ankara and the GNA in November 2019 which basically aimed to obstruct any energy projects in the region that exclude Turkey.

Still, Israel has maintained a certain distance in its opposition to Turkish behaviour. The two countries have close economic relations as well as overlapping security concerns in Syria despite flareups of tensions between them such as that which occurred when Israeli forces killed Turkish activists aboard the Mavi Marmara in 2010. Israel did not add its name to the statement signed by France, Egypt, the UAE and Greece in May 2020, protesting Turkish provocations in the Eastern Mediterranean. But it did declare its full support for Greece on 12 August 2020 in response to drilling activities that Turkey had apparently launched in response to an Egyptian-Greek maritime border agreement signed on 6 August. It would appear, therefore, that Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi agree on the need to curtail Turkish expansionism from Libya to the Eastern Mediterranean, even if the two broach the matter from different premises. 

CONFRONTING ISLAMIST MILITANTS: Israel and the UAE may also converge on the fight against Islamist radicals in Libya. The UAE is deeply concerned by the infiltration of the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical Islamists into the GNA, because of the threat they pose to the UAE’s allies in eastern Libya and to regional allies such as Egypt which has had to tighten the defences of its western border due to the heightened possibilities of terrorist infiltration from Libya. Israel, for its part, has been wary of all manifestations of the Islamist ascendancy in the region since 2011. This concern has extended to the growth of radical Islamism in Libya because of how it interweaves with Hamas in Gaza and how it feeds anti-Israeli sentiment in general and in North Africa in particular. Israel would have taken stock of the fact that the first reaction to the UAE-Israeli agreement came from Mohamed Al-Emari, a member of the GNA Presidency Council who condemned it as “an unsurprising betrayal from the UAE.” The Tunisian Ennahda movement called it a “flagrant attack” on Palestinian rights. The Turkish reaction was predictable given how Ankara has cast itself as a champion of Arab and Islamic causes espoused by its Islamist allies in the region, even though Turkey recognised Israel decades ago and sustained close and strategic relations with Tel Aviv long before the UAE. 

FIGHTING IRANIAN INFILTRATION: While Abu Dhabi has been more open to Iran during the past two years, to which testify new channels of cooperation, this has not diminished its opposition to Iranian penetration elsewhere in the region, including Libya. This conforms with Israel’s regional policy aims, as both Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi regard Tehran as the main threat to the region. 

 

True, the Iranian role in Libya appears limited. However, growing Turkish-Russian influence there could tempt Tehran to insert itself for pragmatic reasons, especially in view of its relations with Russia and Turkey in Syria and, perhaps, as a means to counter US sanctions. In addition, Libya is connected to Sub-Saharan areas such as Niger and Chad where Iran also seeks to expand its influence, whether for uranium, money laundering or other purposes.

In mid-June 2020, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif voiced his support for the Turkish-backed GNA in Tripoli and during a subsequent visit to Moscow he voiced his support for Russian-Turkish efforts to resolve the Libyan crisis. According to some reports, Iranian freighters delivered arms to the GNA in 2018 and 2019. The most recent sighting of an Iranian ship was in Misrata in April 2019. On the other hand, other reports accuse the LNA of receiving military support from the Bashar Al-Assad regime in Damascus, which is backed by Iran. 

In May 2020, Israel’s UN representative officially accused Iran of violating the arms embargo to Libya. He said that Iranian made Dehlaviyeh anti-tank missiles had come into the LNA’s possession. Iran denied this and the accusation of violating the arms embargo. Some analysts have argued that it does not stand to reason for Iran to support LNA Commander Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar who is backed by the UAE and Saudi Arabia. However, complex, multifaceted crises such as the Libyan conflict may sometimes compel outside stakeholders to take contradictory stances to advance their particular interests. 

EXPANDING INFLUENCE INTO AFRICA: Israeli-UAE convergence in Libya could extend to coordination in the Sahel region where both countries have growing influence. The UAE is a major funder of the G5 Sahel members and it has important development and investment programmes in the region. Israel, for its part, revived diplomatic relations with Chad in January 2019 and has since strengthened military/security relations with N’Djamena in the framework of the drive it set in motion to expand its influence in Central and West Africa when Netanyahu attended the ECOWAS Summit in Liberia in 2017.

Now that UAE-Israeli normalisation has become official, this development could stimulate some other G5 Sahel nations, such as Niger and Mali, to follow Chad’s suit. One also imagines that Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv will work more closely together to counter Turkish economic and military pressure on Chad, perhaps taking advantage of the LNA’s current control of southern Libya towards this end. On the other hand, it appears that Israel is also eying Sudan as a possible avenue towards tightening relations with Chad and with the Sahel region as a whole. The fall of the Omar Al-Bashir regime in Khartoum and the consequent rise of Saudi-UAE influence in Sudan at the expense of Turkish-Qatari access had made this avenue available as never before. It is noteworthy that Netanyahu met with Lieutenant General Abdel-Fattah Al-Burhan, chairman of the Sovereignty Council of Sudan, during his visit to Uganda in February 2020. 

The lines of convergence in Libya between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv may affect regional and international interplays in ways that increase the pressures on Ankara and its Islamist allies and counter Ankara’s attempts to obstruct energy projects in the Eastern Mediterranean. Still, there may be limits on how far such coordination could go. For example, Tel Aviv, which holds other types of leverage, could try to work out an accommodation with Turkey of some sort. Simultaneously, some stakeholders in the Libyan crisis might fear the propaganda value of rapprochement with Israel in the hands of their adversaries. Libyan statements cited in the Israeli press about possible cooperation between Cyrenaica and Tel Aviv were vehemently denied by authorities in eastern Libya precisely because they could be exploited by the GNA, as was the case when, in June 2020, the Israeli newspaper Makor Rishon cited the deputy prime minister of the government in eastern Libya, Abdel-Salam AlBadri, as calling for Israeli support, or when, in December 2019, the Foreign Minister of the eastern government Abdel- Hadi Al-Haweij, said that the government hoped to establish friendly relations with Israel.


The writer is a researcher at Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 20 August, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

Ahram Online

Sahel-Elite (Bamako-Mali)

Sudan fires spokesman who confirmed peace talks with Israel

Khartoum Foreign Ministry earlier denied knowledge of talks after Haidar Badawi Sadiq opened up about secret negotiations for normalization
By TOI Staff
19/08/2020 – Sudan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman was fired on Wednesday, a day after he sparked a diplomatic flurry by publicly disclosing normalization talks with Israel, apparently without authorization.

Haidar Badawi Sadiq told Sky News Arabia on Tuesday that Sudan was interested in establishing ties with Israel and predicted that a treaty between Jerusalem and Khartoum could be signed by the end of the year or in early 2021. The comments came hours after he posted a public blog in which he urged the country’s military-civilian leadership to speak openly about ongoing talks.
His comments, which came amid feverish speculation that other countries may soon join the United Arab Emirates in agreeing to ties with Israel, were swiftly walked back by the country’s acting foreign minister Omar Qamar al-Din Ismail, who said he was “surprised” by the announcement.“The matter of relations with Israel has not been discussed in the Foreign Ministry at all. No one tasked Haidar Badawi Sadiq with making statements on this matter,” Ismail said.

Sadiq later said that he had confirmed talks with Israel because no senior government officials had bothered to deny a prediction by Israeli Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen that ties with Sudan may be agreed to in the coming months.

Cohen insisted on Wednesday that peace talks between Jerusalem and Khartoum were ongoing. He claimed that they included a provision for the return of Sudanese asylum seekers currently in the country.

This is not the first time Sudanese contacts with Israel have become mired in controversy, highlighting divisions between Khartoum’s military and civilian leaders. In February, Sudanese transitional leader Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Uganda, a meeting quickly disavowed by the country’s prime minister Abdalla Hamdok. At the time, a senior Israeli official told The Times of Israel that the two had agreed to gradually normalize relations between the two nations, which remain technically at war.

Israel officials have long expressed a wish for improved ties with Khartoum, citing its importance in the region as well as its geographic location.

A Sudanese government official told The Associated Press Tuesday that deliberations between Sudanese and Israeli officials have been going on for months, with help from Egypt, the UAE and the US.

“It’s a matter of time. We are finalizing everything. The Emirati move encouraged us and helped calm some voices within the government who were afraid of backlash from the Sudanese public,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media.

The US announced on Thursday that Israel and the UAE had agreed to normalize ties, solidifying a long-secret relationship, and officials have predicted that ties with Bahrain, Oman, Sudan and other countries may follow.
The Times Of Israel
Sahel-Elite (Bamako-Mali) | Photo: Sudanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Haidar Badawi Sadiq was fired on August 19, 2020, a day after expressing support for peace with Israel. (YouTube screenshot)

Israel secretly supports putschist Gen. Haftar in Libyan civil war

28/07/2020 – Israel’s presence in Libya has escaped most public knowledge, yet numerous media reports have revealed that Tel Aviv is covertly supporting eastern-based putschist Gen. Khalifa Haftar in Libya against the U.N.-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA).

Israel views its support for Haftar as a tool to secure its own interests. However, Tel Aviv is keen to keep the relationship under wraps out of sensitivity of how Arab and Muslim public opinion would perceive its ally in the event his links with the Zionist state came to light – particularly vis-a-vis the putschist general’s Salafi and nationalist supporters in eastern Libya. Continuer à lire … « Israel secretly supports putschist Gen. Haftar in Libyan civil war »

Will Israel Find Itself Facing Down Iran, Turkey, and the US in Libya?

avatar by Irina Tsukerman | The Algemeiner

28/07/2020 – Several reports (most recently in Makor Rishon) have been published on Libyan National Army (LNA) outreach toward Israel. The LNA makes the point that Libyans and Israel have common foes in Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, his Syrian mercenaries, and the militias affiliated with the Islamist Government of National Accord (GNA). The LNA posits that it can work together with Israel to thwart the expansion of a hostile Islamist network in North Africa. Continuer à lire … « Will Israel Find Itself Facing Down Iran, Turkey, and the US in Libya? »

Why Erdogan needs Russian presence in Libya?

17/07/2020 – Ankara supports the Government of National Accord, led by Fayez as-Sarraj, that controls the west of Libya, and Cairo supports the House of Representatives, which, in turn, controls the east of the country, and backs Libyan National Army / Khalifa Haftar.

The Sirte-El-Jufra axis became, on the one hand, the border of this division to the east and west, on the other, a red line potentially capable of causing a military clash between Turkey and Egypt… And Germany, which organized the Berlin Conference, insists on so that the Sirte-El Jufra axis becomes a « demilitarized zone ». It is clear that this will mean the acceptance of the de facto partition of Libya. Continuer à lire … « Why Erdogan needs Russian presence in Libya? »

German Bundeswehr Renews Service Contracts for Heron 1 systems in Afghanistan and Mali

13/07/2020 – Airbus Defence and Space and the Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support (BAAINBw) have signed a renewed service contract agreement for Heron 1 unmanned aerial systems (UAS) in operation in Afghanistan and Mali. Continuer à lire … « German Bundeswehr Renews Service Contracts for Heron 1 systems in Afghanistan and Mali »

The Blue Line: The Israel-Sudan Border? The Challenge of Infiltrators from Lebanon (By: Assaf Orion)

09/07/2020 – A new security challenge has emerged from Lebanon: Sudanese trying to cross the Blue Line into Israeli territory in search of work. In May 2020, the IDF prevented three incidents involving ten infiltrators, and in mid-June, one was captured on the outskirts of the town of Shlomi, in northern Israel. In addition, there were at least four cases reported in which close to twenty would-be infiltrators were captured by the Lebanese army, some with the help of UNIFIL, as well as one case of a Sudanese who was found shot to death deep in Lebanese territory. There are also an increasing number of reports of military operations or increased drills by the IDF along the northern border, including illuminating shells, land forces, and aircraft, and in mid-May, a Syrian who had crossed into Israel was shot and wounded in the Mt. Dov region. A municipality leader went far in describing the seriousness of the situation, and other elected officials compared the attempted infiltrations from Lebanon to past infiltrations along the Egyptian border, in an attempt to leverage this development politically by reigniting the issue of migrant workers in Israel and to take a stab at the legal system.
However, those seeking work are not terrorists, a few infiltrators are not a wave, the Blue Line between Israel and Lebanon is not the peace border in Sinai, and the necessary response on both sides of the border must be crafted professionally, based on the unique characteristics of the challenge at the current time.

Continuer à lire … « The Blue Line: The Israel-Sudan Border? The Challenge of Infiltrators from Lebanon (By: Assaf Orion) »