DISCLAIMER: “Opinions expressed here are solely of the author. Pakistan Insider does not necessarily agree with its content”.
Before I come to the actual body of this article, it is important to shed light on lesser known historical facts; facts which most Jews and Muslims, or Israeli and Pakistanis to be precise, would not want to acknowledge. Despite the visibly clear disconnect between Tel Aviv and Islamabad, both countries have over the past decades maintained some, if not considerable, level of cooperation.
I am certain that a vast majority of this article’s readers will have started fuming after reading the paragraph above. The very notion that Pakistan could somehow be in touch with Israel will set many fanatics on fire. Apart from bigoted hardliner clerics, ultra-nationalist ‘jingoists’ will also be wondering what the purpose of this piece is.
Let me be clear. The purpose of this article is neither to praise nor to malign Israel. In fact, it bears no policy recommendations at all. It is only an individual attempt at presenting strong reasons why there is nothing ‘dangerous’ or ‘insidious’ in enhancing ties with Israel.
We live in a complex day and age. As technology has advanced and brought the world much closer, it has divided humanity to the same degree. We talk of a ‘Global Village’ and yet we cannot tolerate different communities inhabiting our planet. Our quest for resources, minerals and international prestige have resulted in unending wars, battles and fights.
Bearing in mind the intent of this article to present food-for-thought, let us know examine the 5 reasons why there is nothing wrong in Pakistan recognizing Israel:
1. Solution To The Palestine Issue
There are several Muslim states which maintain diplomatic relations with Israel, Turkey being the most prominent. Unlike Saudi Arabia or Iran, Turkey has been successful in bringing Israel to the negotiating table for serious rounds of peace talks with the Israeli leadership. Egypt too has been facilitating peace talks between Tel Aviv and fighters in Palestine. Egypt’s late spy chief Omar Suleiman, former leader Hosni Mubarak, Turkey’s Erdogan and his predecessors, all helped in hosting discussions with Israel. Readers will be interested to know that even Saudi Arabia’s monarchy, the self-professed guardians of Islam, communicated secretly with Israel at least five times since 2014 on the Iran issue.
An enemy’s enemy is a friend and on the other hand, desperate times call for desperate measures. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech before the UN General Assembly reeked of the same pressing concerns for them which had everything to do with Iran. The Saudi kingdom has been urging Washington, common ally between Tel Aviv and Riyadh, to note the common concerns.
While it is true that Iran is as much involved in geosectarian politics as are their Saudi counterparts, Pakistan sits quietly to the East observing these developments. Pakistani representatives at the UN frequently condemn Israel’s apparent atrocities and call for “a peaceful two-state solution to the Palestine problem”. In his recent address before the UN General Assembly, Pakistani Prime Minister Mr Muhammad Nawaz Sharif declared with disappointment that, “The accepted avenue for peace between Palestine and Israel – a two state solution – appears further away today than ever before, due to the intransigent stance of the occupying power.”
Meanwhile, Pakistan refuses to officially recognize Israel’s very existence. In today’s age, this could be the joke of the millennium itself. Why should Israel, a country considered by Jews as their homeland, take Pakistan’s condemnations and appeals seriously if the latter doesn’t even recognize it? Frankly speaking, Pakistan’s empty firing in the air in support of oppressed Palestinian “brethren” is getting more farcical by the day. Claims of pushing for meaningful talks have become hollow. Iran and Saudi Arabia, as mentioned earlier, are caught in their own regional power-grabbing tussles. Turkey under Erdogan has adopted a more hardliner approach after the dreaded Israeli raid on an aid flotilla to Gaza several years ago which deeply severed Turkish-Israeli ties.
Unless Pakistan recognizes Israel as a reality which cannot be ignored further, the possibility of bilateral and later multilateral dialogue (involving Palestinian stakeholders) cannot be envisaged. If I am to put forward my arguments and terms to someone, I have to first accept he is alive and present in front of me. If I keep shutting my eyes and proclaim no one is here, who am I fooling? Why then, am I wasting time making a joker of myself?
The first pragmatic step therefore, is recognizing Israel i.e. that in this age, whether by force, coercion or occupation, Israel is a reality. It has a national infrastructure. Almost the entire world deals with it, and if we really wish to do something meaningful for our Palestinian brothers, we should let go of the false bravado we put up in front of the Muslim ‘Ummah’ and act pragmatic for the greater interest of world peace.
2. Pakistan And Israel Both Are Ideological States
It is a well-known fact that Pakistan and Israel both are nation states which came into being as the result of strong ideologies. Jews consider Israel as their ‘promised land’ and Pakistanis consider their country a ‘divine gift’. Unlike Christianity which limited itself to papacy in the tiny Vatican City, Jews and Muslims have their own political, social, economic and legal systems, apart from sets of rituals and dogmas.
Let’s be honest with ourselves here. Viewed from an alternative perspective, Pakistan too could be equated with Israel’s occupation of Western India. Similarly, the House of Saud in Saudi Arabia and Ayatollah clergy in Qom, Iran can be accused of being “Zionists” in their own right i.e. usurping power and misusing it to terrify and subjugate people.
It is all a matter of perspectives, simply put. My community’s wrongs will be right for me, because it is my community.
Imagine Muslims of the world choosing Pakistan to be their centre of gravity and establishing their Caliphate. A few years later Jewish states would circle this Islamic state from all corners and pose grave security threats. The same is happening with Israel. This is why many of Israel’s security concerns for its people are seemingly understandable (mind you, each community thinks and gives priority to the well-being of its own people, just like we do. The “my-countrymen-should-be-protected-at-all-costs” principle).
Since Israel and Pakistan were established on the basis of respective religious ideologies, it must be viewed as a greater Jewish-Muslim engagement, a meeting of civilizations, if you may. Taking inspiration from the landmark Charter of Madina, Pakistan can put forth concerns of the Islamic world with representatives of the Jewish faith. The ultimate objective is to engage in meaningful dialogue.
3. Pakistan Is A Nuclear-Armed Islamic Republic
The fact that even today Pakistan is the world’s only nuclear-armed Islamic Republic should not be taken lightly. Most importantly, Pakistan’s track record of receiving acknowledgements from IAEA and being a responsible nuclear state add credence to its aspirations for being a formidable representative of Muslims around the world.
Albeit clandestine, Israel too has a full-fledged nuclear programme to protect itself from external hostilities if the need arises. Deterrence is both a force multiplier and warning signal, hence both states know well that none can outsmart the other’s capabilities. Missiles are missiles and bombs are bombs, they are never used to joke around. Their existence has more to do with political messaging than actual use (let’s hope the need never arises).
4. More Openness Equals More Understanding
Israeli Mossad was covertly helping American CIA and Pakistani ISI smuggle weapons against the Soviet troops in Operation Cyclone. Former ISI chief Lt Gen (retd) Ahmed Shuja Pasha had reportedly shared critical counter terrorism intelligence with Israel post Mumbai attacks of 2008. ISI and Mossad have been sharing intelligence from time to time via their embassies in the US, Turkey and Jordan.
They say that one should keep his friends close and his enemies closer. I do not know if Israel is Pakistan’s enemy. But what I do understand is that the current state of rejection is clearly a self-created dead end. Diplomats are, after all, given the gruesome task of smiling with, greeting and having lunch with their worst of enemies simply to project their countries as tolerant and civilized. They have their respective national agendas to push. Sitting idle is not an option.
As Foreign Minister under the regime of General (retd) Pervez Musharraf, Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri had tried to initiate diplomatic relations with his Israeli counterpart Silvan Shalom. As expected, widespread outrage spread out across Pakistan after which both Kasuri and Musharraf were accused of being “Qadyanis”, “Jewish puppets” and what not.
Perhaps one day after dialogue, both Islamabad and Tel Aviv can bring Palestine onboard and finally devise a long-lasting solution to their territorial problems once and for all? A solution which will be supervised and approved by the UN and OIC?
Another reason why Pakistan should consider ties with Israel is the India factor. This is akin to New Delhi’s love affair with Moscow until the Brahmins opted for Washington and Russia was compelled to extend a hand of friendship to Rawalpindi / Islamabad. India is making huge investments in Chabahar port of Israel’s archenemy Iran to create a strategic land route from the Arabian Sea into Central Asia and eventually Europe. Taking advantage of this development which must surely have raised eyebrows across Israel, Pakistan can come to terms on a mutually-beneficial geostrategic alignment which will snub India, just as Pak-Russia ties are keeping several strategists in India restless.
5. Promoting Inter-Faith Harmony
As ideological representatives of Judaism and Islam, Israel and Pakistan can foster a global atmosphere of inter-faith harmony, understanding and research to prevent radicalization and subsequent militancy from either sides. Under the UN umbrella, perhaps, Israel and Palestine can help keep checks and balances on illegitimate, unjustified activities of radicalized Zionists and indoctrinated “jihadis”.
The Abrahamic faith creates a strong bond of peace and tolerance among Jews and Muslims. The common patriarch to the most famous prophets in Judaism and Islam, the Prophet Abraham (Ibrahim, peace be upon him), can be declared as a symbol of harmony among the communities. Armed militants on Jewish and Muslim circles can be persuaded to drop arms and use their tongues, pen and paper to do dialogue and exchange views / ideas instead of bullets and bombs.
While it is true that Pakistan’s founding fathers were skeptical and openly critical of Israel, which was established just a year after their own independence (in 1948), times have considerably changed. Changing times demand revised strategies and modes of engagement. Israel was a tiny population of ambitious Zionist Jews back then, I am pretty sure that seeing what it has become today, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah would not have hesitated in inviting them for talks, if he considered it best for Pakistanis in specific and the Muslim world in general.
Realpolitik demands persistent pragmatism and discarding of bigoted sentiments. A hate-oriented approach will only add fuel to the fire.