For Pakistan, ties with Israel are the way forward – OpEd – Eurasia Review


A visit by an interfaith delegation of Pakistanis to Israel has revived speculation about the normalization of relations between the two countries.

The visit received extra attention because the group met with the President of Israel Isaac Herzog, who described the reunion as “an incredible experience”. He even tied it to the Abraham Accords.

The visit provides an opportunity to get a realistic view of Pakistan’s limited foreign policy options. Despite severe domestic constraints, diplomatic relations with Israel are in Pakistan’s national interest.

Pakistan’s economic crisis

Pakistan is facing the worst economic crisis since its inception, with a potential sovereign default on the horizon. It needs urgent US support to continue IMF-led financing and be removed from the money-laundering watchdog’s gray list.

US leaders, Congress and the powerful pro-Israel lobby could support the resumption of financial aid to Pakistan as an incentive if it agrees to normalize relations with Israel. US aid to Pakistan has been hit hard by the deterioration of longstanding bilateral relations.

Diplomatic relations between Pakistan and Israel are a chance to establish a mutually beneficial economic and trade relationship. For example, Pakistan can benefit from Israel’s high-tech water conservation program.

Additionally, if the rumors are true, Pakistan’s main backer, Saudi Arabia, is in the final stages of negotiations to establish diplomatic relations with Israel. He is waiting for the president Joe Bidennext trip in the area to sign on the dotted line.

Pakistan’s other key international partners, China and Turkey, already enjoy growing trade relations with Israel.

Change of political orientation

Moreover, Pakistan and Israel can benefit from a shift in political direction – promoting soft power over hard power and interfaith dialogue instead of enduring violence.

For too long, both countries have exercised military solutions to political problems. The picture is not pretty: ethnic massacres in Pakistan and systematic violence against Palestinians in Israel.

Although Pakistan and Israel are not natural partners, both emerged as Muslim and Jewish ideological states around the same time – Pakistan in 1947 and Israel in 1948 – due to a bloody partition of the territory of the British Empire.

Both countries became allies of the United States because of a common concern for survival and security. It also led to the construction of a powerful military-security establishment and the development of nuclear weapons.

However, Israel and Pakistan have followed diverging paths. While Israel lost its status as an international pariah and became a leading economic and military power in the Middle East, Pakistan lost a lot of ground to its competitors in South Asia.

Pakistan and the Abraham Accords

As we know, the Trump administration negotiated the Abraham Accords in 2020 with great fanfare. The primary intention was to encourage the normalization of ties between Israel and the Arab world through trade and security alliances.

It is moving slowly as only the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan have joined so far. The idea of ​​expanding the normalization list to include other Muslim-majority countries like Pakistan seems overly optimistic.

Advancing ties with Israel requires courage and strength not shown by previous Pakistani governments. Unfortunately, past contacts between Islamabad and Jerusalem never went beyond the backroom stage due to political opposition in Pakistan.

As expected, the visit to Israel was widely condemned in Pakistan, including in government and opposition. The leaders opposite saw it as a betrayal of the Palestinian cause.

Ousted prime minister Imran Khan stoked fury. He described the visit as part of an official, secret and nefarious government plan to recognize the Jewish state against the will of the Pakistani people.

Khan’s political strategy these days includes an endless tirade, blaming his withdrawal on unsubstantiated American, Indian and Zionist conspiracies.

Pakistan’s fragile coalition government is unlikely to have the credibility and time to make the politically risky decision to engage with Israel, especially with Khan on its tail.

Yet bold decisions are needed for Pakistan to compete in a changing world. For its part, Israel does not have the same constraints. He can wait for Pakistan to come back indefinitely.

Saad Hafiz is an analyst and commentator on politics, peace and security issues. This article originally appeared on The Defense Post


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