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EDITORIAL: This newspaper has, for the record, advocated recognition of Israel since the very beginning, even at the risk of upsetting the more conservative lot among us, but then all discussion about the matter subsided and that was pretty much the end of it. But now that times have changed and the American government has been able to get a number of Arab states to accept the existence of the Zionist state, Pakistan quite naturally faces the same question again. The prime minister himself has admitted, on international media, that the United States and at least one more country have indeed put the proposition to Pakistan. And even though he did not mention just which country joined the US to make the demand, he did say very publically that Pakistan would never recognise Israel as long as the Palestinians continue to be deprived of their rights. This has been Imran Khan’s position since before he won the election, primarily because this was also the stated position of the founder of the nation, Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah. And nothing has changed since then to make Islamabad change its mind.

Given the circumstances the prime minister’s decision is right, but perhaps he should revisit the main reason for not formally accepting Israel. It is true that the Quaid was very vocal about the great miscarriage of justice that was the creation of the Israeli state, but it is also a fact that the Islamic republic he founded began seeing things rather differently as early as the 1956 Suez war. Then, going forward, neither the Arab world nor the only Arab speaking country that recognised Israel by the early 1970s, Egypt, ever stood by us on the matter of Kashmir despite its many obvious parallels with the occupation of Palestine. Instead, they made friends with India because of the benefits of its large market. And while siding with the Palestinians is the right thing to do – even more so in times when the world is beginning to forget their plight – it must never be forgotten that their representatives never echoed our thoughts on Kashmir either. In fact, on each of the two occasions that the revered father of the Palestinian resistance and former chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) Yasser Arafat visited Pakistan, he simply refused to criticise Indian actions in Kashmir because he needed Delhi’s support at the United Nations (UN). It’s another matter, of course, that Delhi soon dumped the Palestinians and made good friends with Israel; so much so that the term ‘Muslim terrorists’ is among their favourite talking points.

It’s very likely that the mysterious state trying to get Pakistan to recognise Israel is one of our many friends in the Gulf that always come to our support and whose money keeps us solvent. Why else would the PM imply that a better time to talk about this might be when we are able to stand on our own feet? Yet even some of them have been a little cold towards Pakistan of late. This is telling, especially since they have also warmed up to India over more or less the same time. That is not to say that the relationship has formally deteriorated at all or even that they do not come to our aid whenever we are in urgent financial need; even though there are rumours that at least one of them might refuse to roll over their helpful loan the next time we ask them to.

Therefore, while the prime minister is right in refusing to have anything to do with Israel at the moment, perhaps it is time for Pakistan to approach the problem from a different angle. There are, after all, no permanent friends or foes in politics, only permanent interests. And it’s not as if crying hoarse about Palestine every time we mention Kashmir has done much about the Palestinian problem or even got anybody in the Middle East to draw the same parallel. Maybe the time has come to put our own conditions on the table. How about stepping in to settle the Kashmir dispute once and for all before trying to get us to make Washington look good before Israel’s friends? That too before any signatures are made. And while they are at it, they might as well have our loans written off too, just like they did for Egypt. That would at least make it an issue worth considering.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020