Should Pakistan revisit its Israel policy?

Published: November 12, 2018
A Reuters file photo of Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

A Reuters file photo of Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

A Reuters file photo of Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The writer is Senior Journalist and host of ‘Capital Connection’ on Tribune24/7. He tweets @Kamran_Yousaf

On October 25, a tweet from an Israeli journalist caused uproar in Pakistan. Avi Scharf, Editor of the English edition of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, claimed that an Israeli jet flew from Tel Aviv to Islamabad. He further said the plane had a stopover of 10 hours in Islamabad before flying back to Israel. Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority as well as the information minister strongly rebutted reports that any Israel jet had ever landed in Islamabad. This controversy has, however, triggered a debate in Pakistan, at least on the social media, that whether Pakistan should revisit its longstanding policy towards Israel. Surprisingly, journalists and analysts, who generally have pro-establishment perspective on regional and international issues, were at the forefront of advocating a change. It is not clear if the country’s establishment is also thinking on the same line.

Pakistan does not recognise Israel and this policy is largely driven by the stance taken by other Muslim countries. Israel’s continued occupation of Palestinian territory and its forces’ atrocities against Palestinians have often invited strong reaction from the government and people of Pakistan alike. Pakistan’s stance is just and based on international law and the relevant UN Security Council resolutions. But in the real world, principles and morality often take backstage as countries look after their own interests first. For instance, if Pakistan is to follow the principle of morality then it must sever ties with Britain, which was responsible for the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Pakistan must not also have diplomatic relationship with the United States, which is the principal backer of Israel.

It is because of this realpolitik that many countries particularly in the West often turn a blind eye towards Israeli atrocities.

Not only the Western countries but also many Muslim countries, which in the past took a strong and principled stand against Israel, are now increasingly warming up to the Jewish state. Saudi Arabia, which portrays itself as leader of the Muslim world, is also reaching out to Israel. It is an open secret that the two countries have established a working relationship. The shift in the Saudi policy stemmed from the changing strategic environment in the Middle East. Many other Muslim countries have also embraced this change. Recently Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Oman. After the landmark visit, Oman’s Foreign Minister publicly stated that the time has come to recognise Israel. Similarly, senior Israeli ministers were recently seen visiting the United Arab Emirates, another Muslim country that in the past was opposed to the Jewish state.

This does not mean Pakistan should also follow its friends in the Arab world. These developments, however, indicate that countries always think about their interests first. Given this, Islamabad at some stage will have to revisit its approach. And this change in approach must be driven by Pakistan’s own interests. There were instances in the past where Pakistan had compromised on its interests for others. Prime Minister Imran Khan in a policy statement soon after taking charge stated categorically that Pakistan’s foreign policy would now be driven by its national interest.

Pakistan recognising Israel is perhaps a long way at this stage. But it is also true that foreign policy cannot be static and has to evolve with time. Pakistan may not need to bring any paradigm shift in its policy towards Israel but it can begin in-house debate to ponder whether its current approach is tenable.

Former military ruler Pervez Musharraf did make an attempt to think out of the box. 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. Can this government replicate that approach not necessarily to appease anyone but keeping in mind the larger interest of the country as well as the changing global realities?

Published in The Express Tribune, November 12th, 2018.

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Reader Comments (10)

  • isa
    Nov 12, 2018 - 9:57AM

    since our pay masters are all trying hard to establish relations with Israel it is time for us to be int he same line. It will help us to get IMF loan approval easly. Forget about palastineRecommend

  • Usman Ansari
    Nov 12, 2018 - 10:54AM

    If Israel implements all applicable UN resolutions and ends its occupation of Palestinian lands (with a full peace deal of course), then Pakistan should adjust its stance. At this point, Israel can offer Pakistan nothing, nor is there any moral incentive to engaging with them. While we’re at it, Pakistan should revisit its policies with Saudi Arabia and Iran as well.Recommend

  • Sidd
    Nov 12, 2018 - 1:06PM

    Not even debatable. NO!Recommend

  • Nikki Khan
    Nov 12, 2018 - 1:56PM

    KSA and Israel are working because both have the same enemy, Iran
    Why should Pakistan recognize Israel, Jinnah did not want that. Moreover, Indo-Israel nexus is against Pakistan.
    Pakistan should come first Recommend

  • Ali
    Nov 12, 2018 - 2:08PM

    Pakistan should recognise Israel and should revise their policies towards Israel and we should also start business ties. Yes Palistine issue is there but it can be resolved within these two countries. Let’s not make it as a Pakistani issue.Recommend

  • Sheikh Waleed Adhab
    Nov 12, 2018 - 3:20PM

    Bibi looks trustworthy and has a very high IQ. We could learn a thing or two from our Jewish brethren.Recommend

  • Ali
    Nov 12, 2018 - 5:38PM

    Few years back one of my friend and colleague said, that the whole world is watching the persecution of Palestinian, and doing no more than issuing verbal contempnation, A time will come when even this contempnation will stop, and Palestinian would be forgotten.—- this is what is happening.Recommend

  • iqbal malik
    Nov 12, 2018 - 7:40PM

    think about palestinians and kashmirisRecommend

  • abdul aleemm
    Nov 12, 2018 - 7:54PM

    Those who think people are not watching whats happening should revise their policies. Israel will not be accepted into existance because there is palestine only. Their God forbidden them to be back to Jeruselam again yet against the teachings of true orthodox jews they cleverly entered jerusalem again. Therefore, no chance for them no matter what they do. Recommend

  • Kaifa
    Nov 13, 2018 - 3:41AM

    @Sheikh Waleed Adhab:
    You sound like a provacateurRecommend

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