Relations with Israel: Interesting suggestions start pouring in for Pakistani govt

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Shafaqna Pakistan: : At a juncture when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu might undertake a short trip to India this month before Indian premier Narendra Modi flies to New York for the United Nations General Assembly meeting, some “intriguing suggestions” have suddenly cropped up on the social media network in Pakistan for the incumbent Imran Khan-led regime to revisit the national foreign policy and establish some sort of a relationship with Jerusalem.

In its September 1, 2019 edition, the “Haaretz”, a 101-year old Tel Aviv-based Israeli newspaper, had stated: “Prime Minister Imran Khan and his military backers are giving unprecedented freedom to a highly-censored media to talk about establishing relations with Israel, 14 years to the day since the countries’ only public bilateral meeting, are conditions now ripe for a formal move?”

With an average daily circulation of 72,00, this longest-running Israeli newspaper has even quoted an August 26, 2019 tweet coming from a veteran Pakistan journalist and television host, who is deemed to be fairly aware of the Pakistani Establishment’s policies and working. The Pakistani journalist’s tweet reads:

“High time Pakistan counters nefarious Indian designs with bold foreign policy moves. Our deepest friends are making fresh alignments. No permanent friends no enemies. Why can’t we openly debate pros and cons of opening direct and overt channels of communication with the State of Israel?” By the way, the ace Pakistani newsman had expressed his views in Urdu in another tweet on the same day. English translation of his Urdu tweet.

“For the last 40 years, Israel has been wishing to establish diplomatic ties with Pakistan, or at least develop a relationship similar to what it has with various Muslim nations. We have always brushed aside such proposals so that our fellow Muslim countries do not feel ill about it. But, many of these Muslim nations are now nourishing friendly ties with Israel, and have even embraced Narendra Modi, a staunch enemy of Pakistan. Time is thus ripe for Pakistan to take prompt decisions in its own larger national interest”.

A few years ago, Pakistan was among the 31 United Nations member states that do not recognise or do not maintain diplomatic relations with Israel. These included: Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brunei, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Mali, Niger and Pakistan; and Bhutan, Cuba and North Korea. But now this situation has changed drastically as various countries have resumed relations or talks with Israel.

For example, Israel’s relations with Saudi Arabia, as well as ties with other Gulf states, have marked an unprecedented shift as the focus of Arab countries has visibly switched from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to dealing with the Iranian threat.

Although Israel and Saudi Arabia have not established any official diplomatic relations, both sides perceive Iran to be their greatest enemy. History shows Saudi Arabian troops had participated in the fight against Israel in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, committing around 1,000 troops to fight under Egyptian command. At the time, the Saudis played a key role in the Arab League, unifying with other Middle Eastern countries in opposition to Israel.

Saudi Arabia also contributed to the “Yom Kippur War” in 1973, airlifting around 2,000 troops to assist Arab forces in Syria. When Egypt signed a peace treaty with the Israelis, Saudi Arabia and other Arab States expressed their disapproval by cutting aid and diplomatic ties with Egypt too. After almost a decade, Saudi Arabia had rebuilt those broken ties.

Recently, in 2019, the London-based “Middle East Monitor” had reported: “Saudi Arabia has sought to buy Israeli natural gas, a former member of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has revealed. Ayoob Kara, former communications minister, said in an interview given in Jerusalem that the two countries discussed building a pipeline that would connect Saudi Arabia to the southern Israeli city of Eilat which lies in the Gulf of Aqaba. The deals that were discussed stem from vast quantities of natural gas found in Israeli waters around 10 years ago, for which companies developing the reservoir of gas have already signed contracts worth $25 billion, but still have over 80 per cent of the resource available to other buyers. The talks between Israel and Saudi Arabia were conducted with the hopes that the Gulf monarchy would fill that gap as it plans to invest over six times that amount in gas throughout the next decade as part of its plan to meet demands for cheaper electricity”.

In UAE’s case, this is what the “Times of Israel” had reported: “A senior United Arab Emirates minister has called for a “strategic shift” in Israel-Arab ties, saying that Arab world’s decades-old decision to boycott the Jewish state had been a mistake”.

The Israeli media house had quoted UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, as saying: “Many, many years ago, when there was an Arab decision not to have contact with Israel, that was a very, very wrong decision, looking back”.

In March 2019, British newspaper “The Guardian” had viewed: “After decades of hostility, a shared hatred of Iran – and a mutual fondness for Trump – is bringing Israel’s secret links with Gulf kingdoms out into the open. In mid-February 2019, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, flew to Warsaw for a highly unusual conference. Under the auspices of the US Vice President Mike Pence, he met the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and two other Gulf states that have no diplomatic relations with Israel. The main item on the agenda was containing Iran. No Palestinians were present. Most of the existing links between Israel and the Gulf have been kept secret – but these talks were not”.

It had added: “Netanyahu’s meeting with the Saudis and Emiratis in Warsaw was not the first dramatic public glimpse of this changing Middle Eastern reality. Last October, the Israeli prime minister held talks in Muscat, the capital of Oman, with its ruler, Sultan Qaboos bin Said. The following day, his Likud Party colleague, the culture and sports minister Miri Regev, was visiting Abu Dhabi in the UAE, while at the same time Israeli athletes were competing in Doha in nearby Qatar. Evidence is mounting of increasingly close ties between Israel and five of the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – none of which have formal relations with the Jewish state”. Let us take a look at the Pak-Israeli relationship and timeline:

Israel and Pakistan do not have diplomatic relations with each other, and the Pakistani passport reads: “This passport is valid for all countries of the world except Israel”.

Pakistan and Israel were established in 1947 and 1948, respectively on ideological declarations. While it was the famous “Two-Nation Theory” in case of Pakistan, the Israeli ideology was based on the deep-rooted idea of “Homeland for the Jewish People”.

An attempt to establish diplomatic relations with Pakistan was made by Israel’s first premier David Ben-Gurion, who had sent a telegram to Quaid-i-Azam, but the latter gave no particular response.

(Reference: Author P R Kumaraswamy’s June 1997 book “The strangely parallel careers of Israel and Pakistan”)

In 1949, the Philippine Airlines became the only carrier to establish a direct air link between Karachi and Lod (Tel Aviv) as a sector on their Manila–London service. However, it is not known whether they had traffic rights between the two, allowing passengers and cargo to be flown on the route. (Reference: The Philippine Airlines’ October 22, 1949 timetable)

Some initial contact between the ambassador (high commissioner) of Pakistan in London and representatives of Israel was made in early 1950, to open legations in Karachi, or at least to conduct trade openly.

A meeting had then taken place in New York between Pakistani foreign minister Zafarullah Khan and Abba Eban, the then Israel’s ambassador to the United States, in January 1953 to discuss Israeli-Pakistani relations. (Reference: The Jewish Political Studies Review).

In his book “Charlie Wilson’s War: The extraordinary story of how the wildest man in Congress and a Rogue CIA agent changed the history of our times,” George Crile, an American journalist closely associated with the “CBS News” had claimed that between 1980 and 1988, the American CIA, Israeli spy agency Mossad, the Pakistani ISI and British spy agency MI5 had run a covert operation named “Operation Cyclone” in Afghanistan to remove the Soviets from the country. During the operation, as the American newsman has claimed, Israel and Pakistan also had high-level dealings through their intelligence agencies, which included military accords with Israel supporting Pakistan through provision of Soviet weapons to Pakistan during that era. Journalist George Crile had further contended in his book that during 1993, former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto, along with the then director general of Pak Army’s Military Operations, Pervez Musharraf, had intensified the ISI liaison with Mossad. Benazir is said to have had a secret meeting in New York with a senior Israeli emissary, who flew to the US during her visit to Washington, DC, in 1995.

In 2003, Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf had raised the issue of possible diplomatic relations with Israel, the “BBC News” had reported. The Chinese ‘Xinhua News Agency’ had reported that in 2005 the Pakistani and Israeli foreign ministers had held parleys for the first time, though following the meeting; Gen Musharraf had asserted Pakistan would not recognise the state of Israel until an independent Palestine state was established. Less than a decade ago, the “WikiLeaks” had stated that Pakistan and Israel had used their embassies in Istanbul to mediate or exchange information with each other. In 2010, according to this above-mentioned NGO that had flashed headlines in those days by publishing news leaks and classified media by citing anonymous sources, Pakistan is/was believed to have used its embassy in Istanbul to pass on information about a terror group to Israel.

In 2011, according to the “Press Trust of India”, Israel was alleged to have exported British military technology to Pakistan.

Israeli newspaper “Haaretz” had reported that in 2015 that an Israeli scientist Ramzi Suleiman had attended a science moot sponsored by the Pakistan Academy of Sciences in Lahore.

In 2017, during an official visit to India, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had dismissed suggestions that his country’s partnership with India was a threat to Pakistan. A Pakistani newspaper had quoted him as saying: “We (Israel) are not enemies of Pakistan and Pakistan should not be our enemy either”.

The Indo-Israel bilateral trade figures: Contrary to the nature of its relationship with Pakistan, Israel had established full diplomatic relations in 1992 and since then, the bilateral relationship between the two countries has blossomed.

With a nominal GDP of $390.656 billion and a per capita nominal GDP of $43,199, Israel’s bilateral trade volume had rested at US$5.84 billion (excluding defence cooperation) in 2018, up steeply from US $200 million in 1992 (comprising primarily trade in diamonds). According to the Indian embassy in Israel, the balance of bilateral merchandise Indo-Israel trade is in India’s favour by US$ 1.8 billion. India imports critical defence technologies from Israel. There are regular exchanges between the armed forces. India is a destination of choice for over 38,000 Israelis who visit India every year for tourism and business. Over 40,000 Indians visited Israel in 2013, the largest number of tourists from an Asian country.

Several courses related to India are taught at Tel Aviv University, Hebrew University and Haifa University, speaking volumes of the fact that a significant warming in bilateral relations that has taken place in recent years.

In 2017, another Israeli newspaper, the “Jerusalem Post” had written: “India has signed a MoU with Tel Aviv University for a Chair for Indian studies in the Department of East and South East Asian Studies under which Indian professors have been coming for a semester. Some private and public Indian universities have entered into agreements with Israeli universities for faculty exchange under which Israeli professors spend a semester teaching in India”.

The media outlet had stated that India was Israel’s second-largest trading partner in Asia, second only to China. It maintained that a variety of Israeli companies had also already established representative offices or even manufacturing plants in India, including Teva, Netafim, Check Point, Amdocs, Magic Software, Ness Technologies, Israel Aerospace Industries, Elbit, Verint, Mobileye and HP Indigo. The US-Israel trade volume and demographic statistics:

Although Donald Trump is the first Jewish president of the United States, most of his predecessors have admired and befriended Jews.

Israel is one of the United States’ two original major non-Nato allies in the Middle East. Since Israel’s founding in 1948, successive US presidents and many members of Congress have demonstrated a commitment to Israel’s security and to maintaining close US-Israel defence, diplomatic and economic cooperation.

The US goods and services trade deficit with Israel was $10.9 billion in 2017. Israel is currently America’s 23rd largest goods trading partner with $35.5 billion in total (two way) goods trade during 2018. Goods exports totalled $13.7 billion; and goods imports totalled $21.8 billion.

Since 1985, the United States has provided nearly US$3 billion in grants annually to Israel; $1.2 billion in economic aid and $1.8 billion in military aid. Israel was the largest annual recipient of American aid from 1976 to 2004 and the largest cumulative recipient of aid ($134.7 billion, not inflation-adjusted in bilateral assistance and missile defence funding) since World War II. The “Pew Research Center” in United States has estimated that about 5.3 million Jews live in the United States, accounting for approximately 2.2 per cent of the US adult population.