Egypt Eyes Close Ties Between South Sudan and Israel With Suspicion

A recent visit to Israel by South Sudan's President
A recent visit to Israel by South Sudan's President

South Sudan and Israel discussed bilateral cooperation and diplomatic relations. South Sudan said it will establish an embassy in Jerusalem, rather than the political capital, Tel Aviv, following the recent visit of the South Sudanese president, Salva Kiir.

On Friday the visiting Israeli ambassador, Dan Shaham, met with the vice president of South Sudan, Riek Machar, and discussed issues pertaining to the bilateral cooperation between the two states.

The issues included the support the Israeli government will provide to the new state as well as the status of some 1,500 South Sudanese currently residing in Israel.

Shaham gave assurances that South Sudanese refugees in Israel will be trained in various skills so they can contribute to the young nation upon repatriation.

Machar stressed the importance of establishing a Hebrew language school in the South Sudan’s capital, Juba.

They also discussed the plans for a pilgrimage to Israel by South Sudanese Christian leaders.

The Vice President and the Israeli diplomat also discussed the ongoing disarmament of civil populations in Jonglei state. They also touched on the situation in the Middle East, particularly with the current violent events in Syria.

With the independence of the South Sudan in July 2011, Israel announced on 31 January that South Sudanese are no longer considered refugees and have to leave the Jewish state before the first of April of face forced deportation.

The UN refugee agency, HCR, said only some 60 South Sudanese agreed to return voluntarily to their new nation before April 1. The Israeli Interior ministry recently said no South Sudanese have appealed the decision to deport them or applied for refugee status since January.

Following its decision to repatriate South Sudanese, the Israeli authorities agreed, upon the request of the HCR, to give them the possibility to petition to stay in Israel. The official statics estimate that there are some 3000 South Sudanese in Israel.

South Sudan’s relations with Israel are frequently viewed with intense suspicion in the Egyptian press, cafés and bars.

And this is because Egyptians view the Nile’s water sources, one of which flows through South Sudan, called the White Nile, as a matter of national security.

Egyptians fear that a “Zionist plot” is behind South Sudan’s diplomatic relations with Israel, and that there is a plan to shut off the water flow to Egypt.

To what end this fanciful consipracy theory would possibly benefit anyone involved, has never been elaborated.