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Israeli leaders condemn assault on Capitol Hill

What happened: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu both condemned the assault on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday and praised US President Donald Trump as a regional peacemaker.

  • Speaking at a press conference alongside US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin yesterday, Netanyahu said: “For generations American democracy has inspired millions around the world and in Israel. American democracy has always inspired me. Lawlessness and violence are the opposite of the values we know Americans and Israelis cherish. The rampage at the Capitol yesterday was a disgraceful act that must be vigorously condemned. I have no doubt that American democracy will prevail – it always has.”
  • He added: “I want to thank President Trump and all of you in the administration for all you have done and are doing for peace. You’ve made a real difference, achieving one breakthrough after another, bringing the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan into the circle of peace. I have no doubt that more Arab and Muslim countries will follow.”
  • Mnuchin was in Israel after visiting Sudan, where he witnessed the country officially sign up to the Abraham Accords and endorse normalisation with Israel.
  • Israel sees ties with Sudan as extremely important strategically, given the country’s location in the Horn of Africa, at the entrance to the Red Sea which is a passage for Israeli ships in and out of Eilat.
  • Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi tweeted after the signing: “Sudan’s signing of the Abraham Accords is an important step in advancing regional normalisation agreements in the Middle East. I want to thank the US administration for its constant efforts to promote peace and stability throughout the Middle East. I hope that this agreement will soon bring progress in the dialogue and normalisation between Israel and Sudan and promote the development of relations between our two countries.’’

Context: The events in the US have been condemned by Israeli politicians from across the political divide.

  • Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid wrote on Twitter that he was “deeply saddened and shocked” by the rioting. He added: “We hope to see order restored and the transition of power completed. America needs to go back to being a role model for democracies across the world.”
  • Lapid was joined on Twitter by New Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar, who wrote: “I was sad to see the pictures from Washington, DC, last night. Order has been restored and I am sure there will be an orderly transition of power in the United States, our greatest friend in the world.”
  • Defence Minister Benny Gantz said the assault served “as a reminder to every leader of the moral obligation to stand up for democracy when it is under attack. And a reminder to every citizen of the importance of finding what is common, so that we can unite around the shared goal of protecting the values that are the cornerstone of our society: respect for the rule of law, for the democratic process, and for one another”.
  • President Reuven Rivlin also urged Israelis to learn the lessons from the events in the US over its own rise of polarisation in politics. He said: “Over recent years, with all of the election campaigns that we have had, and the painful questions that have been on the Israeli public agenda, the distance between us has grown perhaps greater than ever. But we must ensure that even if the gaps are deep, our democracy will protect us as a people, as a society and as a state.”
  • A poll in Maariv found that 56 per cent of Israelis thought the assault on the US’s parliament could also happen in their country. In contrast, 32 per cent do not believe that such incidents will take place in Israel.
  • In Yediot Ahronot, Sima Kadmon writes: “What is most dangerous is that the US president incites an entire public into believing that his election loss is not his, but that of the Republicans, of his voters, of America. That the election was stolen from them under their noses, that the results were faked. This is not all that different from what Netanyahu has been doing for a long time, when he pushed Israeli society into a polarising conversation, into an atmosphere of division and into being a country that is under a heavy cloud that threatens its democracy.”
  • The new agreement with Sudan caps months of negotiations between the Trump administration and Sudan’s interim government, which came into office following the removal of dictator Omar al-Bashir following mass protests in 2019.
  • Following an agreement last year where the US would remove Sudan from its state sponsors of terror list in exchange for payments to settle terror victims’ claims, Trump administration officials added that Khartoum normalise relations with Israel. In return, the Sudanese leaders requested a restoration of Sudan’s sovereign immunity from future terror lawsuits in US courts, which Congress obliged with the exception for an ongoing lawsuit by family members of victims of the 11 Sept. 2001 attacks.

Looking ahead: Israel’s Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen told i24News this week that Israel is “in touch with six or seven additional countries, in Africa, in the Gulf and in East Asia” who see Israel as a partner for regional stability.

  • Israel has working relations with most African countries on the Red Sea basin except Djibouti and Somalia.
  • Djibouti has become a major sea military hub for world powers such as the US, France, China, Japan and Russia and could be a candidate for the next African country to normalise ties with Israel.

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