NOTE: Middle East Eye just published my latest piece on Bibi Netanyahu’s multi-billion dollar weapons shopping list, which he’s given Trump in return for permitting sale of U.S. F-35s to UAE. Please give it a read and promote on social media.
GREAT news! New government of Sudan, which is making great progress, agreed to pay $335 MILLION to U.S. terror victims and families. Once deposited, I will lift Sudan from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list. At long last, JUSTICE for the American people and BIG step for Sudan!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 19, 2020
Not so fast. Yes, Trump announced today that Sudan would be removed from the U.S. state terror list. But you’ll note that Trump conditioned delisting on receipt of $335-million in “reparations” for the attack on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Sudan, as anyone with any sense knows, is essentially bankrupt. It doesn’t have $335-million lying around somewhere to throw away. It barely has an economy and has no imminent prospects of economic growth that would enable payment of this claim.
But UAE has already promised Sudan $800-million if it normalizes with Israel (the Sudanese laughed in their face and said they need a minimum of $3.5-billion in aid to make a dent in their miserable economic situation). Presumably, an impoverished Sudan could have its debt paid by UAE. Which would be a clever charade enabling everyone to save face and get what they really want…except the Palestinians who, as usual, get left holding the (empty) bag.
Everyone who has been sentient the past 3 1/2 years knows Trump is a blowhard prone to invent “facts” out of whole cloth. So whether Sudan is prepared to do what he claims is an open question. In fact, the civilian prime minister has said just the opposite:
The top civilian official in the coalition, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, has repeatedly urged the U.S. administration not to link Sudan’s removal from the list to normalization with Israel.
Hamdok argued that the transitional government does not have the mandate to decide on foreign policy issues of this magnitude.
It appears today that he’s changed his tune and fallen into line with his military allies in the governing council, who’ve salivated at the prospect of billions in military and economic aid from their Gulf brothers. He tweeted:
Thank you so much, President Trump! We very much look forward to your official notification to Congress rescinding the designation of Sudan as a state-sponsor of terrorism, which has cost Sudan too much. https://t.co/GeScTPfb0k
— Abdalla Hamdok (@SudanPMHamdok) October 19, 2020
Trump and Hamdok do seem to be at loggerheads here though. Trump wants cash on the barrel. Hamdok wants the merchandise in his possession before paying. That’s a pretty big divide. It’s also worth noting that neither leader mentioned Israel or the “N”-word in their statements. Sudan has previously said it refused to condition aid or delisting on normalization. Whether there is a tacit or secret annex committing Sudan eventually to normalize some time after the delisting isn’t clear. If that happens, then Sudan will become the third Arab state to betray Palestine for Esau’s mess of pottage. For those who don’t recall, Jacob cheated his brother into giving up his inheritance as the first-born child in exchange for a mess of pottage he prepared for the starving hunter.
Cooking the Books: New Normalization Poll Slants Results Favorable to UAE
In light of yesterday’s post which noted strong opposition in the Arab world to normalization, it’s worth noting a contrary voice. Arab-American pollster, James Zogby, reported (pdf) diametrically opposite results in his own polling. Israel HaYom, closely allied with the ruling far-right Likud, led with this headline: Poll finds growing support for ties with Israel in some Arab countries.
If you read last night’s post which documented widespread opposition to normalization in the Arab world, Zogby’s result fly in the face of the polls I offered. He reports that while majorities in four of five Arab countries polled opposed normalization, support for it hovered in the range of 40%. This is astonishing since the polls I mentioned in yesterday’s post showed nearly 90% opposition. So something’s gotta give.
Gaza journalist, Hind Khoudary, prepared an analysis of the Zogby poll which exposed some serious weaknesses of methodology, and an ideological bias.
It’s not coincidental that the first media outlets to report the poll were The National, a UAE-based publication closely tied to the ruling regime, Sky News Arabia, which is co-owned by a leading member of the ruling family of Abu Dhabi, and Israel HaYom, owned by Sheldon Adelson and allied with Israel’s ruling far-right Likud. Further, one of the first pieces Zogby wrote announcing his “confounding” set of results was in Gulf News, another UAE-based publication.
As a reader pointed out, the 2019 version of this poll was commissioned and funded by the UAE foreign ministry. Since the poll is done annually, one can assume the 2020 iteration was also funded by UAE. For some reason, Zogby hasn’t revealed that in the full poll document.
Given these sources which first promoted the poll, it seems no accident that the poll results would affirm the decision by the UAE ruling family to normalize relations with Israel. Indeed, in the poll the only country showing majority support for normalizing was UAE (56%). The next highest was Egypt which found only 42% in favor.
It also appears to be no accident that Zogby’s poll broke down in minute detail the motivations of those who favored normalization (devoting two of the three pages of the survey dealing with the subject), but ignored the reasoning of those who oppose it. The purported client isn’t interested in those who oppose UAE’s policy or their reasons for doing so.
The defense of his polling published in Gulf News exposes some of the questionable assumptions which underlay the survey itself. Zogby seems to believe that softening of attitudes among Arab states toward Israel will moderate views amongst Israeli Jews. In fact, he makes this rather astonishing and unsupported claim:
There should be the recognition given to the fact that the UAE initiative did impact Israeli public opinion and policy.
How did it impact such views? The pollster claims that when Israeli Jews read an op ed by UAE’s ambassador to the U.S., which warned them that they could not have relations with his country if they annexed the Occupied Territories, they hesitated. One must ask? Is that all there is? Is normalization a cool thing because Israelis will agree not to annex the West Bank? Is that what all these decades of Arab rejection of peace with Israel has meant? To get an impression that Israelis might soften slightly their oppression of Palestinians by easing up on annexation?
Zogby offers more bromides about the ameliorative impact of normalization on Palestinians:
It may very well be possible that the UAE will have some leverage they can use to not only stop annexation, but to alter Israeli behaviours.
This statement is so weak that it’s hard to take it seriously. What leverage will UAE have in the face of a vehement ultra-nationalist Israeli juggernaut that has bested American presidents for decades? What can it threaten? What can it withhold from Israel to make it fall into line? How precisely could it alter Israeli behaviors?
Zogby’s role here seems to be to whitewash normalization. To rebut charges that this process represents an abandonment of the Palestinians, while arguing that it does just the opposite. His defense suggests that contrary to the view that Arab normalizers are betraying Palestine, they are actually defending and protecting it from the ravages of Israeli aggression.
Even more mystifying to me was why Mondoweiss published Zogby’s defense of his poll. In fact, they republished the same piece he published in Gulf News without noting it was a republication. Given that MW is anti-Zionist and Zogby is clearly in favor of a two-state solution, what gives?? Did anyone there read his piece before publishing it?
Another final oddity of the poll methodology was that Zogby only polled Jewish Israelis. He excluded Palestinian citizens of Israel, who compose 20% of its population. While there may be reasons in such polls to divide polling into Jewish and Palestinian-Israeli segments, there should never be polling concerning Israeli national issues that excludes either group. Doing so, renders the results completely biased and incomplete (at best).
I tweeted to Zogby asking who commissioned and paid for the poll. In the interest of transparency, this is critical data. If he responds I will add that information here.