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A State is Born: Israel may find new friend in South Sudan

South Sudan joins the family of nations amid rising tensions with its neighbor to the north. While Israel has diplomatic and military interests in the new country, it is treading carefully for now

It is not often one gets to start a sentence about the Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir with the words “to his credit.” But it is definitely worth noting that despite his original insistence that the South would never secede, on Saturday he will be among the honored guests in Juba as South Sudan officially declares itself as an independent country. Perhaps even more notable, Bashir’s government in the North’s capital, Khartoum, recognized the world’s newest nation even before the weekend’s festivities.

But while the countdown to independence officially ends, another countdown begins. The estimated one million South Sudanese living in the North now have nine months in which to relocate to their new country. Many got a head-start, having already packed and left. But some – defiant assimilationists – are expected to try and stay.

One has to wonder if Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is taking notes on how to effectively – and quietly – enforce a population transfer. And this writer wonders why there is not more of a global outcry against it. Either way, this is not the only theme that should be familiar to readers who follow the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The creation of two states for two peoples, living side-by-side (or, above-and-below as is the case) is meant to mark the official end of hostilities between the two, tensions that have spanned some six decades. (Where have we heard this before?) But it is already clear that will not totally happen. There continue to be territorial disputes over the reserves of oil-rich Abyei, which many in the South continue to claim as their own. Already rebel groups that broke-off from the Southern People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), which paved the road to independence for the South, have vowed to keep fighting. Perhaps with good reason – oil revenues from Abyei for Sudan equal some $95 billion dollars a year. Knowing it is an asset worth defending, al-Bashir has spent a third of that on his military. The South, which by default is born into poverty as one of the world’s poorest country, is showing it, too, is committed to military spending: three dollars to the army for every one dollar for education.

Israel, naturally, is watching very closely, but do not expect a book entitled “From Juba to Jerusalem” any time soon. Israel will likely find a friend in South Sudan, and presumably will even open an embassy. The South’s president, Salva Kiir, has already declared his openness to as much. But it may take a while for relations to really solidify. Israel will use South Sudan’s independence to show the world what it believes can come of careful, bilateral negations (a clear slam at Palestinian efforts to take their cause to the UN General Assembly in September). And Israel will likely contribute – even if secretly – to the training of the South Sudanese army, a Christian buffer to the Muslim (and often Iran-aligned) North. But in all likeliness the new country will be less-than-thrilled to absorb the North’s refugees. And it may respond unfavorably as Israel attempts to repatriate 8,000 Sudanese currently in the country to South Sudan, even though only a quarter are actually from the South.

It appears that Israel will recognize the new state immediately after the United State and European Union do. But do not expect Bibi and Bashir to be seated next to each other at the ceremonies in Juba. In fact, the Israeli government is sending no one. Perhaps it is afraid of reacting in a way that could backfire. Or perhaps it is afraid of reacting at all.

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    1. Empress Trudy

      this comment was deleted for offensive content. next time, user will be banned

      Reply to Comment
    2. Empress Trudy

      And yet when you do insist on boycotts, how does that work again?

      Reply to Comment
    3. Empress Trudy

      Still trying to understand what precisely is ‘offensive’ about noting that the BDS movement wants a boycott and what that means is no allies or friends of Israel, none. Including the wretched misfortunates of Africa. Should Israel persist in reaching out, that would of course be construed as a provocation nay, an insult upon all of Islam.

      And who wants that? Sudan’s Bashir is an indicted war criminal and yet he travels freely on UN planes. Israel making friends with South Sudan would not bode well for the dhimmi state of South Sudan. I’d say they should leave off and know their place in the world.

      Reply to Comment
    4. bea

      **new** friend (in South Sudan) old “friendships”? Have Israel (UK, US, Belgium and presumably others to; still cutting up the post colonial pie) not been working with “friends” in the South for decades? I can’t find much on this just now–it was 10 or so years back in Uni that I took an interest, and there was a bit around.

      There is quite a lot of mention of a book (which is really why I am making this comment) “Israel and the Movement for the Liberation of South Sudan”, 2003, Moshe Fergie, Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies on the net, which I would be interested to know if really exists: I’m slightly suspicious as I have had no luck tracking it down, and the mentions look like they may all derive from one or two articles on sites that I am not familiar with; perhaps speaking Hebrew is an adavantage to finding out if it does exis, and, if so, whether it is still available somehow?

      What it is reported as saying sounds fairly in keeping with what I understand as having been Israel’s general long term strategy in the Greater Middle East (including North Africa) since the Ben Gurion & Dayan days: of aiming to “encourage” the creation of an outer ring “friendly” (generally) minority/non-muslim ruled political entities around the larger arab states, which would come to view Israel as vital to their survivial in a region where a permanent sense of crisis–for both internal cohesion, and external lack of it–was to be the name of the game. (Livia Rokach (Moshe Sharret); Chomsky (in a lot more detail of course) amongst other cover this stuff, if I remember.)

      Reply to Comment
    5. Empress Trudy

      So the creation of Southern Sudan is in reality a super secret Zionist plot to create a massive Jewish colonial empire in Africa?

      Wow. Just wow. Where did you study, at the University of Halperidol?

      You do realize that the Peaceful Peaceloving Muslims of North Sudanese’ of Peace have perpetrated a genocide upon the South in order to grab that part of the country which we know has 85% of the oil and valuable minerals.

      And not to put too fine a point on it, there are today thousands of Chinese PLA troops in Sudan to secure Chinese interests there. If China is now officially under the sway of the Infinite Eternal Zionist I hadn’t heard that. Is there a memo from Electronic Intifada I missed?

      Reply to Comment
    6. Sylvia

      “What it is reported as saying sounds fairly in keeping with what I understand as having been Israel’s general long term strategy in the Greater Middle East (including North Africa)”
      Bea you don’t need more books about the conflict, what you need is a beginner’s course in geography. South Soudan has a common border with Kenya, which I wouldn’t exactly ;place in the Middle East. Slo much for the “ring”.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Sylvia

      Israel should exercize her right to remain silent on the subject of South Sudan. From what I’ve seen in Arab forums, they are raging over what they view as “the division of an Arab country” and videos are being circulated supposedly of the celebrations in Juba showing people waving US and Israeli flags which inflames the anger.
      I don’t think Bashir or his Islamist allies have accepted it I think they are waiting for the right time (I venture to say September when all eyes are on the Middle East or elsewhere).
      Speaking of the Sudanese refugees in Israel, one of them got stabbed today – possibly by another Sudanese but we don’t know for sure.

      Reply to Comment