In the first decade of the twentieth century, the British Empire faced several challenges from the restless native population in the respective colonies. In order to restore British influence and national interest, Great Britain launched the Balfour declaration on the land of Palestine, from the day Israel first acted as an outpost at Muslim heartland in the Middle East. The legitimacy of Israel is a state one of the most barbed and intricate issues in the world, particularly in Muslim countries.
Historically, Pakistan and Israel are not directly engaged in any hostility or clash with each other. Pakistan didn’t support Israel since its inception because of its historic support to Palestine cause. Before the independence of Pakistan, Indian national congress and Muslim league staunchly opposed Israel as a state on the land of Palestine. The same Muslim leadership after the creation of Pakistan showed extreme detest to the state of Israel.
Pakistan’s incessant support to Palestine’s cause is purely related to its ideological association with the people of Palestine. The first Prime Minister of Israel, Ben-Gurion. wrote a letter to Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah asking to establish diplomatic and economic ties between the two countries.
Jinnah wrote this as a reply!
“Every man and woman of the Muslim world will die before Jewry seizes Jerusalem. I hope the Jews will not succeed in their nefarious designs and I wish Britain and America should keep their hands off and then I will see how the Jews conquer Jerusalem. The Jews, over half a million, have already been accommodated in Jerusalem against the wishes of the people. May I know which other country has accommodated them? If domination and exploitation are carried now, there will be no peace and end of wars”.
Despite opposite sentiments among the masses, the first time in the Musharraf era, it was believed that Pakistan is going to establish diplomatic ties with Israel. It was broadly discussed on the academic and official levels. Many suggestions were presented, debated in many forums. Personally, Musharraf was eager to reshape decades-long hostile relations with an undeclared enemy.
Pakistan has been in contact covertly with Israel on many occasions. After 9/11, Pakistan desired to change its different stance against Israel. Both countries allegedly involved against each other in different covert missions. Pakistan helped the Arab alliance against Israel during the Arab Israel wars. Pakistani air force’s training to Arabian pilots was noted as a hostile act. Israel-India’s secret operation against Pakistan nuclear program in 1980 was exposed by CIA agents when they need Pakistan’s support against Soviet Union in Afghanistan.
Anti Israel feelings are popular among the common people in Pakistan. It is argued that Pakistan pursued dual policy against Israel. On a mass level, there is extreme hate against Israel and officially Pakistan refrains from disclosing its relation with Israel though officials from both countries met several times. Antagonism with Israel was an unjustifiable reason for Musharraf. He believed that if Arab countries can enjoy good ties with Israel, why not Pakistan which has no direct clash with the state of Israel?
India, a supporter of non-alignment movements, was a front line state who had been supported Palestine cause for several decades. A major breakthrough came into being after 1990 when India officially recognized Israel as a state and made warm ties reciprocally. India-Israel bonhomie was widely criticized in Pakistan and Arab countries.
Israel is now a key strategic partner of India. According to both countries, they face the same issues from their respective neighbors. India becomes the largest trade partner of Israel after 9/11. The relation between these two countries has been encouraged in the military domain. Israel is now one of the top military suppliers of India.
Israel provides intelligence and logistics support to India in India-held Kashmir. Israel has sold billions of worth military equipment to India like AWACS, Barak-8, night vision cameras, sensors, radars, heavy artillery, and other sophisticated military equipment.
The religious structure of Pakistani society and the education curriculum are widely considered two main reasons for hatred and repulsion against Israel. Any diplomatic or formal approach with Israel might create a backlash.
Dr Moshe Yegar, a retired diplomat of Israel, analyzed that the main obstacles to Pakistan-Israeli rapprochements are:
(1) Religious solidarity of Pakistan with Arab Muslim countries.
(2) Fear of an adverse response from the radical Islamist groups in the world.
(3) There is a concern that diplomatic ties with Israel may cause internal instability in Pakistan.
Israel is keen to establish diplomatic ties with Pakistan. To Israel, Pakistan can play a greater role to build bridges between Israel and other Muslim countries like Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia and Pakistan which possess nuclear weapons, has a strong military which is equipped with modern and sophisticated military hardware as well as it is an important country in the Muslim world. Therefore, Israel is interested to develop formal ties with Pakistan so that it can mitigate growing hatred against Israel in the Muslim world in this process.
In these current circumstances, it’s far difficult for Pakistan to move forward. When Jerusalem is declared as a new capital of Israel, when Trump is advocating so-called deal of the century for middle East, When Pakistan, Turkey, and Malaysia are taking a stance for Muslim unity, when Indian enjoys a long strategic partnership with Israel, it is hard to believe that we are going to see any formal rapprochement between these two countries in near future.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had gone on the record revealing that his country maintains unofficial ties with a broad range of Arab states.
- Saudi Arabia:
Israel and Saudi Arabia share the same animosity with Iran, anti-Iran proxies in the region same stance against the Bashar regime in Syrian giving favor to both countries covert relations.
UAE and Israel both are secretly involved in high profile engagement. Soon after, while Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu visited Oman in late October 2018, Israeli Minister of Culture Miri Regev was on a four-day visit to Abu Dhabi. Regev is a hardline conservative with a reputation for racist, provocative statements. She was welcomed by local officials and given a tour to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque alongside UAE officials. The next day, during Regev’s visit, Israel’s national anthem, Hatikvah, was played for the first time in Abu Dhabi.
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Egypt maintained, “no peace with Israel, no recognition to Israel, no negotiations with it” — a rallying cry that most Arab countries would adhere to for decades. But today, Egypt and Israel share a close relationship. In coordination with Egyptian authorities, Israel exports natural gas to Egypt after a USD 15 billion deal signed in 2018. Egypt’s top generals are working closely with their Israeli counterparts since the Camp David accords of 1978. Egyptian security forces and Israeli forces enforce restrictions on movement in and out of the Gaza Strip.
Israel and Jordan have straightforward ties. Israel needs Jordan as a security buffer, and Jordan needs Israel’s water and economic stability.
On 25 October 2018, Netanyahu visited Oman for high-profile talks with Sultan Qaboos bin Said days after talks with Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas. Oman maintains cordial ties with Israel since 1994 and tried to leverage its position as a mediator between all.
Bahrain, Morocco, Sudan has similar unofficial ties with Israel. Pakistan is stuck in the whirlpool of complexity either to accept Israel is a state or to maintain decades-long hostile relations with Israel.
Regarding recognition to Israel as a legitimate state, Pakistan should keep in mind that a slight hint may create an uproar. Nowadays, the opposing voices are not so strong and a large number of people have supported the idea of giving recognition to Israel. But it seems far difficult due to certain tensions. Any vivid move might turn things into an unprecedented subversion. The analyst believes, Pakistan is still waiting for such a right moment when its move will be acceptable to all the Muslim community by enjoying better ties with Israel as well.
Qaiser Mahmood undergraduate' student of international relations, International Islamic University Islamabad.