Analysis: Pakistan, Israel put out feelers (UPI) VIA-WASHINGTON TIMES) By Anwar Iqbal - Washington, DC 02/01/05)
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Washington, DC, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- Israel and Pakistan should
have "direct, personal contact, publicly, without being ashamed about
it," Israel´s Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres told the Pakistani
The exclusive interview last week with a reporter from Jang, which
has a large circulation, sparked a militant rampage on the
newspaper´s offices in Karachi. But Saturday´s vandalism did not
shock many in Pakistan. Most people had expected some violent
reaction from the country´s religious extremists soon after Jang
published the interview on Friday.
What surprised them most is that less than 30 people participated in
the assault in a city of almost 14 million people. Equally surprising
for most Pakistanis was the reaction to the attack.
Almost all major political parties, social organizations and media
groups condemned the ransacking and the beating of guards trying to
protect the office. The condemnation was so strong that Pakistan´s
main religious alliance, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, was also forced
to join the chorus.
"It is an attack on the press´s freedom to report things as they
happen. This cannot be tolerated," said Hafiz Hussain Ahmad, a
central leader of the MMA. The group wants Pakistan to quit the U.S.-
led alliance against extremists and opposes any links with the Jewish
The attack did not discourage the Israelis either. A day after,
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said Israel doesn´t see
Pakistan as an enemy, but rather as an important country in the
Muslim world with which it is interested in normalizing ties.
Given the mutual distrust the two countries have for each other, the
statement is significant. But even more so was a meeting between
Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom and Pakistani Prime Minister
Shaukat Aziz on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos,
Israel and Pakistan do not have diplomatic ties. One was created as a
state for Jews and champions Jewish causes around the world. The
other was created as a state for Muslims of the subcontinent and has
actively supported Palestinians and other Arabs.
But the situation began to change when Pakistan joined the U.S.-
led "war on terror" following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the
United States. Soon after joining the coalition, Pakistan´s President
Pervez Musharraf started urging his people to "debate and discuss the
possibility of having some relations with Israel." In June 2003,
after receiving a $3 billion economic package from President George
W. Bush at the Camp David presidential resort, Musharraf went one
step further and said that Islamabad should consider recognizing
Those who believed that no Pakistani leader could put forward such a
suggestion and survive predicted the beginning of the end for
Musharraf. Some in his government also privately said that his
statement about recognizing Israel could lead to a popular uprising
against him. But nothing happened.
Encouraged by this lack of reaction, Musharraf repeated his proposal
on several occasions last year, saying that if Arab states could
recognize Israel, why not Pakistan.
"At the time, Musharraf´s comment was interpreted in Jerusalem as an
attempt to gain good will in Washington. Jerusalem also sees
Pakistani overtures as motivated in part by a desire to counter
Israel´s close ties with India, Pakistan´s rival," said Jerusalem
Post in an article Monday on the possibility of establishing a
relationship with Pakistan.
It also quoted Regev as saying that any normalization of ties with
Pakistan would "in no way interfere with or come at the expense of
our good relationships with other countries on the subcontinent."
Israel and Pakistan have been making tentative overtures for at least
two years but Israel only recently began talking publicly about it.
On Saturday, Israeli officials confirmed the Aziz-Shalom meeting but
did not reveal its content. And the next day, Regev told
reporters: "We are interested in normalizing relations with Pakistan
on the basis of equality and mutual respect. The ball is in their
court; we are ready to move."
Meanwhile, the Jang described Peres´s comments on Pakistan-Israel
relations as "the latest sound-byte in an ongoing debate about
whether mainly Pakistan should recognizing Israel if the fledgling
Middle East peace plan remained on track."
The Jerusalem Post noted that at last year´s Davos meeting Peres
shook hands and exchanged words with Musharraf, but the Shalom-Aziz
meeting went beyond just a passing conversation in a hotel corridor.
In the Jang interview, Peres urged Pakistanis to reach out to Israel,
saying, "There is no shame in peace; we should reach full
Asked whether Israel would accept a Pakistani role in the peace
process, Peres said, "First and prior to anything, Pakistan has to
decide to have contacts with both sides -- and that´s before playing
a part in the Middle East peace process; it cannot play a role
without having relationships with all the entities involved."
He added that since Israel has been able to develop close contacts
with Turkey, which is also a Muslim state, there is no reason why the
same could not be the case with Pakistan.
Last month, another Pakistani paper, the Daily Khabrain, published an
interview with Amira Oren, director of the Israeli Foreign Ministry´s
Arabic press and information department.
Oren was quoted as saying Israel "would warmly welcome any gesture of
good will from Pakistan to normalize the relationship." (Copyright
2005 United Press International 02/01/05)
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