Pakistan has not been approached by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to recognise Israel, clarified Pakistan Ulema Council Chairman and Special Aide to Prime Minister on Religious Harmony and the Middle East Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi.
“Neither United Arab Emirates nor Saudi Arabia has asked Pakistan to recognize Israel,” he said while talking to newsmen here on Thursday, according to a The News report.
He said anti-Pakistan forces are worried following the improvement of Pakistan’s relations with the Arab Islamic countries.
Pakistan’s relations with Arab Islamic countries including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Egypt, Bahrain, Amman and Iraq are improving with practical cooperation in different areas, he said adding contacts are underway with Saudi officials on the issue of repatriation of Pakistanis.
Rumors of Pakistan recognizing Israel started doing the rounds on social media after Israeli media stated that Netanyahu had met Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman a few days ago.
However, Saudi Arabia shot down the reports, adding that MBS had met US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, clarifying that no Israeli official had attended the meeting.
What exactly happened?
Israeli media claimed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu secretly met Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) on Sunday. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was present in the meeting. Mossad Chief Yossi Cohen also attended the meeting, which was reportedly held in Neom on Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coast, reported Israel’s Kan public radio and Army Radio.
Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, has denied reports on Twitter.
I have seen press reports about a purported meeting between HRH the Crown Prince and Israeli officials during the recent visit by @SecPompeo. No such meeting occurred. The only officials present were American and Saudi.
— فيصل بن فرحان (@FaisalbinFarhan) November 23, 2020
Notably, Riyadh has so far declined to normalize ties with Israel, saying Palestinian statehood goals should be addressed first. But the Saudis have allowed Israeli airliners to overfly their territory to newly available Gulf destinations and to Asia.
A private jet traveled to Saudi Arabia?
According to Israeli daily Haaretz, aviation tracking data showed that a private jet had made a brief trip from Tel Aviv to Neom, where MBS and Pompeo had a scheduled meeting on Sunday. Flight-tracking websites showed that the plane was grounded for approximately two hours before it returned to Israel about half an hour past midnight.
Netanyahu secretly flew to Saudi Arabia to meet Mohammed bin Salman (and Pompeo) in Neom — Haaretz. https://t.co/Em4qXZZ9T1
— Yaroslav Trofimov (@yarotrof) November 23, 2020
The jet, according to Haaretz, is the same private plane Netanyahu took several times for his visits to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Arab world normalizing ties with Israel?
The Arab world has recently been seen resolving its conflict with Israel. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) normalized ties in August 2020. Bahrain and Sudan did in September and October respectively. Before August, only two Arab countries had official ties with Israel – Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.
Before that, the Arab state’s official recognition of Israel was conditional on the end of the occupation of Palestinian territories and the establishment of the two-state solution on the 1967 borders.
Analysts believe that the UAE has its eyes set on acquiring the US-made F-35 fighter jets, which could potentially shift the balance of power in the region. Israel is the only country in the region that has F-35s but dropped its opposition to their sale to the UAE after it said the US had assured it that Israeli military superiority would be preserved.
Experts, opinion makers and independent analysts in Islamabad believe that Pakistan’s popular discourse is unlikely to allow it to recognize Israel in the coming few years. It is also important to note the new alliance e.g. Turkey, Iran, and Malaysia as a new powerful bloc in the Muslim world is also playing an important role in Pakistan’s case. Pakistan is likely to stand by Iran and China in the coming years which may result a paradigm shift in Pakistan’s foreign policy with regard to Saudi Arabia.