Is Israel Pakistan’s enemy?

Published: January 29, 2018
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An Israeli solider removes the flag from a rooftop in Hebron as troops force Jewish settlers out of homes they said they had purchased from Palestinians. PHOTO: REUTERS

An Israeli solider removes the flag from a rooftop in Hebron as troops force Jewish settlers out of homes they said they had purchased from Palestinians. PHOTO: REUTERS

An Israeli solider removes the flag from a rooftop in Hebron as troops force Jewish settlers out of homes they said they had purchased from Palestinians. PHOTO: REUTERS The writer is a senior correspondent of The Express Tribune in Islamabad. 
He tweets @Kamran_Yousaf

In the mid-80s Israel and India had secretly planned to destroy Pakistan’s nuclear facility in Kahuta on the outskirts of Islamabad. Israel, which does not share border with Pakistan, was thought to be a part of the plan because it did not want to see an “Islamic bomb.” The plan was aborted after Pakistan warned that it would target India’s nuclear facilities if Kahuta came under attack. Neither Israel nor India have ever officially acknowledged it, although, there were several private accounts and references in some books, showing the existence of such a plan. Whether or not Israel was indeed contemplating destroying Pakistan’s nuclear facility, it nevertheless reinforced the perception in the country that Israel is Pakistan’s enemy. Public opinion suggests that there exists an Indo-US-Israeli nexus against Pakistan. Most recently Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani also alluded to the emerging alliance between these three countries, insisting this is not only a threat for the South Asian region but also the wider Muslim world.

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But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was on tour to India recently, brushed aside this perception that his country views Pakistan as an enemy state. Netanyahu also claimed that the main focus of his visit to India was economic rather than a military one. He also refused to take the bait when he was asked during an interview with an Indian news channel whether Israel would back New Delhi if it launches “surgical strikes” against Pakistan. The statement was significant for two counts (a) because he said this on the Indian soil (b) it came against the backdrop of Pakistan’s concerns that growing Indo-Israel defence cooperation can disturb the conventional balance in the already volatile region.

Israel may not have any diplomatic ties with Pakistan, but this does not mean it would say something publicly that antagonises Islamabad. Netanyahu’s calculated statement on Pakistan was manifestation of that approach. Not long ago, Israel had to issue a clarification after a fake news story claimed that its former defence minister threatened to launch a nuclear attack against Pakistan if it sent its troops to Syria. No matter how we perceive Israel, the fact is it is very smart and has a robust foreign policy. After all, diplomacy is the art of making new friends and avoiding confrontation with countries with which you don’t have the best of relations.

Should Pakistan revisit its decades-old policy towards Israel then? The subject is sensitive and that is why there is little or no public debate on it, although policymakers must have been pondering this question behind closed doors. Pakistan’s Israel policy historically has been driven by the position taken by the larger Muslim world against the Jewish state. But as a matter of fact proponents of that policy have now themselves embraced the change. Saudi Arabia is the prime example. It is an open secret that Saudi Arabia and Israel have been talking to each other for many years now to at least maintain some contacts if not establishing full diplomatic relations.

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Pakistan does not necessarily need to compromise on its principled stance on the Palestinian issue or recognize Israel. But Islamabad can at least explore the possibility of maintaining working relationship with Israel to protect its strategic interests. Former military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf took the unprecedented step to reach out to Israel. In 2005, the foreign ministers from Pakistan and Israel held landmark talks in Istanbul. The process, however, could not move further because of the political turmoil in Pakistan and subsequent ouster of Musharraf from power. The very idea of maintaining contacts was to offset any negative fallout of Israeli’s growing intimacy with India. That approach is still very much relevant. Also opening channels of communication with Israel can give a whole new perspective to Pakistan-US ties given the influence of the Jewish lobby in Washington, DC.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 29th, 2018.

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Reader Comments (12)

  • Michael kaye
    Jan 29, 2018 - 10:44AM

    As an Israeli I would welcome relations with Pakistan.

    A Jewish State existing in the Holy Land is not an attack or an affront to Islam. If Israel was accepted as a nation by Muslims around the world the benefits to both peoples would enormous.

    We are all descendents of Abraham, our quarreling will stop one day, let’s make it stop nowRecommend

  • Mohammad Aslam
    Jan 29, 2018 - 12:46PM

    yes Israel is Pakistan’s enemy coz Pakistan being a super power among all the Muslim countries Recommend

  • Mirza Jehangir
    Jan 29, 2018 - 1:01PM

    Israel can never be a friend o Pakistan
    We should form a group with Turkey and Iran.along with China and Russia
    Only such a grouping can stop the cruelty and mischief being spread in the world by these devils disciples ,India/Israel/USA and its poodles. Recommend

  • Arshad Ali
    Jan 29, 2018 - 1:30PM

    Very well written! I think it is the need of the day. Recommend

  • skg_ti
    Jan 29, 2018 - 3:41PM

    Israeli PM Netanyahu in his recent india visit clearly stated that he does not consider pakistan as their enemy, Maybe we should learn from mistakes made in the past and try to build good relations with the non muslim world based on ideals of true leader like Sir Syed Ahmed Khan etc. Recommend

  • Shahzad
    Jan 29, 2018 - 4:04PM

    Not talking at all is not an option, We Should talk to the Jewish state and see what it is in for us. About Time we change our Foreign Policy. Recommend

  • John F
    Jan 29, 2018 - 6:26PM

    Well, the polio vaccine which goes in the mouth of every Muslim Pakistani child, was made by a Jew. Should you stop using it?Recommend

  • Waleed
    Jan 29, 2018 - 7:24PM

    Pakistan has always suffered consequences of partnering with other countries and take all the beating. If Saudi Arabia and UAE can start dialogue with Israel, Pakistan should be able to do so without any criticism. Recommend

  • Saqib
    Jan 30, 2018 - 9:49AM

    Absolutely not! come out of the illusions of perceiving other nations as enemies. Recommend

  • Rex Minor
    Jan 31, 2018 - 7:39PM

    @John F:
    The jewish Industrialist Alfred Nobel invented the detonator for dynamite and nitroglycerin whch is used to this date by the terrorists to blow up civilians and yet he donatd funds for nobel prize awards. Should the world praise or admonish him?

    Rex Minor. Recommend

  • Ashraf
    Mar 3, 2018 - 1:41AM

    Why not? Pakistan is not an Arab nation. It has nothing to do with that part of the world. If Saudi Arab, Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, UAE.. etc can make good relationship with Israel, the Pakistan should not waste a moment! This Muslim brotherhood, Arab ummah…are just to black mail Pakistanis emotionaly by those Arab nation. Israel has never considered Pakistan as its enemy. In fact Israel wanted to keep reationship with Pakistan like Turkey for a long time. Just do not let those uneducated Mollah dictate your country’s foreign relationship. Recommend

  • Usman
    Mar 16, 2018 - 4:11PM

    I support it. I guess Pakistan should accept Israel and better relations should be made. Believe it or not, Israel or mainly Jews control the world today. This may be beneficial in either ways. Recommend

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