Pakistan and the Dilemma of Establishing Ties with IsraelMaedeh Karimi Ghahroodi
After Israel and the United Arab Emirates reached an agreement to normalize ties in August, Pakistan authorities warned about the consequences of the deal and deemed as impossible the recognition of Israel till the realization of rights of Palestinians and establishment of a government. Their stance was not anything new, however, the content of these stances in last two years needs to be taken into consideration.
Although there might be secret ties between Israel and Pakistan, but Islamabad has repeatedly announced that it will not recognize Israel if there is no Palestinian government, likening the Kashmir situation to Palestine’s. However, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan compared Indian government to Nazi government under Adolf Hitler in Germany, without referring to Palestine. The recent Israel-UAE normalization deal, while neither condemned nor condoned, was described as an agreement with far-reaching implications. Imran Khan underlined that he will not recognize Israel until there is a Palestinians government. He said accepting Israel is like giving up the Kashmir, emphasizing that his conscience does not let him to do so.
Imran Khan’s stances can be analyzed in favor of Israel regarding a number of factors. First is that the close ties of India and Israel, particularly its significant development during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first term, is a concern for Pakistan. It was in Modi’s government that India’s prime minister made a landmark trip to Israel as the first premier to do so since the country’s independence.
Six months later, his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu returnd the visit and the economic, military and security ties between New Delhi and Tel Aviv boosted. No doubt, one of the India’s purposes in getting closer to Israel is restricting Pakistan and pressuring Islamabad over the Kashmir issue. Modi unilaterally revoked Kashmir’s special status in his first term and no doubt he has the support of Israel in this regard as despite the UN Security Council resolutions and the will of international bodies to settle the dispute through negotiations, New Delhi advanced the policy. Pakistan has understood that it will fail to confront India and even safeguard its territorial sovereignty without the US and Israel support and its national interest will be at risk.
Pakistan relations with Arab countries of Persian Gulf have soured in recent years particularly after the war on Yemen.
Further, Pakistan relations with Arab countries of Persian Gulf have soured in recent years particularly after the war on Yemen. In April 2015, the UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Mohammed Gargash strongly condemned Pakistani parliament’s resolution of neutrality over Yemen, warning that Islamabad will pay a heavy price for that. The stance could be considered as the start of the tensions between Pakistan and the Arab states.
Undoubtedly, Israel seeks recognition by Islamic countries, particularly Pakistan. After Pakistan’s independence, Israel asked its founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah to recognize Tel Aviv. However, their request was left unanswered.
Yet Islamabad, by comparing the Kashmir situation with Palestine, seeks rights in the Himalayan region and getting privileges from India, rather than advocating Palestine cause and Islamic resistance ideology. Imran Khan’s stance over recognition of Israel could be taken this way that Islamabad will retreat from its stances, while Tel Aviv still seeks recognition. Therefore, surrounded by India, Pakistan has to make some changes in its stance as Israel has been the center of decisive developments around Pakistan.
Pakistan’s critical affairs, including its ties with India, Afghanistan, and Israel are designed and directed by the country’s army.
It is clear that Pakistan’s critical affairs, including its ties with India, Afghanistan, and Israel are designed and directed by the country’s army. The government of Nawaz Sharif and the Pakistan People Party didn’t have the authority to change Islamabad’s stance toward Israel. On the other hand, if Pakistani army pioneered the change in Islamabad-Tel Aviv ties, it would be accused of dictatorship, denial of religious values and giving up in Kashmir crisis. This would also weaken the army’s position as the defender of the country and its sovereignty.
The change in Pakistan’s approach toward Israel will be more acceptable for the public opinion and regional states if implemented by a public figure, a popular party leader or an elected prime minister. Thus, Imran Khan seems to be an appropriate option. However, it should be noted than not the whole Islamic world is ready to accept establishing ties with Israel and even Pakistan’s public opinion and Islamic parties like Jamaat-e-Islami, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam as well as Shia parties are against establishing ties with Israel.
Therefore, the release of recent developments in Pakistan regarding its ties with Israel, freedom of expression for talks about Islamabad-Tel Aviv diplomatic ties and toning down by Pakistan authorities will set the ground for a new chapter of Israel ties in the Middle East that would be threatening for Iran.
* Maedeh Karimi Ghahroodi holds a PhD of Political Science; she is focused on Pakistan affairs.
This article was originally published in Persian at Iranian Diplomacy.