Arabs, Pakistan, and Israel

The Gulf states and Morocco also ended Israel's economic boycott the same year and established mutual trade relations with her. Although the Israeli trade missions in Bahrain, Oman, and Morocco were closed in 2000 due to Israel's harsh treatment of the Palestinians, trade and economic ties continued.


Israeli President Isaac Herzog disclosed on Thursday, 26 May 2022 he had an “amazing experience” while meeting in Israel a mixed delegation of Pakistani expatriates from the US and a PTV employee.

Herzog was speaking at the World Economic Forum (WEF) about the Abraham Accords, a US-backed deal brokered by Jared Kushner, former US President Donald Trump’s Jewish son-in-law. The Abraham Accords are a series of treaties normalizing diplomatic relations between Israel, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco, facilitated by the U.S. Administration, through Jared Kushner, between August and December 2020.

In the span of five short months, these four Arab states joined Egypt and Jordan in making peace with Israel. The agreements were called “The Abraham Accords” in honor of Hazrat Ibraham AS – the patriarch of the three Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Read more: Diplomat reveals status of Israel’s relations with Saudi Arabia

With their characteristic duplicity, Pakistan’s Foreign Office and Ahsan Iqbal, Minister for Planning, Development, and Special Initiatives said no official or semi-official delegation from Pakistan met the Israeli President. The Palestinian problem is one of the factors which generally determine Pakistan’s relationship with the Arab world. Does the not-so-secret meeting in Jerusalem reflect the Pakistan government’s desperate effort to use Israel as a conduit to the US to facilitate a favorable financial deal with IMF?

Or, is it part of the US-sponsored regime change in Pakistan?

According to the Islamabad grapevine, Saudi Arabia is waiting for Pakistan to recognize Israel before the Saudis do so. However, Saudi airspace is already available for Israel. Saudi Arabia’s dependence on Pakistan for recognizing Israel is another reason for the slow movement on a financial bailout for Pakistan.

Whereas successive Pakistani governments have parroted their commitment to the Palestinian cause, their support, even as the support of the Arab states, is nothing more than a cosmetic gesture. During the Suez crisis Iskander Mirza, Pakistan’s first president, had even secretly congratulated Israeli leaders on the superb performance of their ‘little army’ in giving a bloody nose to the Egyptians.

Pakistani gesture was not lost on the Egyptians. Fifteen years later, in the aftermath of the 71 War, Hasnain Heikal, while addressing his Indian audience in New Delhi, remarked, “You were not alone during the 71 war. We were with you (at least morally, sic)”. Such are the dynamics of International relations. Today, the Arab Middle East stands fragmented, more than it was after the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire

Egypt had recognized Israel in 1979 as a quid pro quo for the return of Sinai and Sharm el-sheik. As a result of the peace process initiated after the second Gulf War, Israel was formally recognized by Jordan in 1989. The Gulf states and Morocco also ended Israel’s economic boycott the same year and established mutual trade relations with her. Although the Israeli trade missions in Bahrain, Oman, and Morocco were closed in 2000 due to Israel’s harsh treatment of the Palestinians, trade and economic ties continued. Also, Israeli tourism to Morocco is encouraged by the World Federation of Moroccan Jewry, a Jewish NGO. Whereas Saudi Arabia does not have diplomatic ties with Israel, this does not deter it from continuing with back door diplomacy with the latter on how to deal with Iran.

Read more: PTV anchor fired after he visited Israel

In 2003, Iran’s President Mohammad Khatami visited India as the chief guest for India’s republic day parade. During the visit, he and the Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee signed the New Delhi Declaration, which became the basis of a strategic relationship between the two countries. Two months later, Iranian and Indian warships conducted joint naval exercises (Hathaway, 2014). According to the declaration:-

  1. Indian arms sales to Iran were discussed.
  2. India agreed to help train Iranian military personnel.
  3. India would help Iran maintain its MiG-29 fighter aircraft.
  4. New Delhi will have the right to use Iranian military bases for combat operations against Pakistan should another Indo- Pakistan war breaks out.
  5. India also agreed to assist in the development of Iranian port facilities and with the construction of road and rail links with Iran.

The extent to which Iran would extend cooperation to India during such a conflict is known in Pakistan. India is also using border areas of Afghanistan and Iran as staging areas for launching covert operations against Pakistan.

Since the 1990s, India has tried to outflank Pakistan and open up a route to Afghanistan and Central Asia. The port of Chabahar, next to Gwadar, is central to India’s intentions. India and Iran agreed to develop Chabahar in 2003 but the venture moved slowly because of the sanctions over Iran’s nuclear programme.

India thinks that its presence in Chabahar will neutralize the Chinese presence in nearby Gwadar. To this end, India and Iran, along with Russia, have talked about creating a Russo-Iranian- Indian transport corridor.

Read more: Israel, UAE ready to sign free trade agreement on Tuesday

Indian access to the Iranian ports and military bases will present Pakistan with the threat of a two-front war. Not only Iran but also the other Gulf states, particularly UAE, consider the development of Gwadar Port and the projected China–Pakistan Economic Corridor as a threat to their economies. They, along with India, are supporting various separatist Baloch groups that have sprouted along the coastal belt of Balochistan during the last decade.

What is the situation on the ground?

Nawaz Sharif did not have business relations with India’s Jindal only. He had also bought Israeli machinery for his Jeddah steel mills. Pakistanis, ranging from politicians to bureaucrats, to maulanas, frequently visit Israel. In the past, Maulana Ajmal Qadri of JUI had created news when his secret visit to Israel was exposed in the media. At the Ben Gurion airport, Pakistanis request the Israelis not to stamp their passports. Then, depending upon their preferences, they pay homage at the Aqsa Mosque, the Tel Aviv Diamond Exchange, or frequent the cat houses in Tel Aviv.

Why is it imperative for Pakistan to initiate a dialogue with Israel?

There are four reasons for it:-

  1. India, Pakistan’s arch-enemy, has a strategic relationship with Israel. The relationship allows India access to the cutting-edge Israeli military technologies purloined from the US.
  2. The US strategic relationship with India, and the resultant US resentment against Pakistan, is a function of the Indo- Israeli strategic paradigm.
  3. In the not too distant future, Pakistan will need Israel to deal with the threat from Iran. In this regard, there is greater convergence of aims between Pakistan and Israel than between India and Israel. After all, there is also an Indo – Iranian strategic relationship.
  4. Apart from clichés, Pakistan will be better poised to help the Palestinians if it has diplomatic relations with Israel.


Saleem Akhtar Malik is a Pakistan Army veteran who writes on national and international affairs, defense, military history, and military technology. He Tweets at @saleemakhtar53. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.

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