There has been a paradigm shift in the recognition of Israel by Muslim countries ever since several Gulf Arab states normalized ties with Israel. The question remains which country would be next to establish diplomatic ties with the Jewish state and whether it could be Pakistan.
The Israeli media and several pro-Israel lobbies have reported that another Muslim-majority country could establish ties soon and a delegation had even visited Tel Aviv. Amid intense speculation, an Israeli minister denied that Pakistan was not among the countries Israel was seeking to set up ties with. It has, however, been unveiled that there has been interaction between the two countries in the past.
It was already known that Pakistan had once explored the possibility of exploring ties with Israel when Gen Musharraf met Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon at the UN building in New York in 2005. Just months before, foreign minister Khurshid Kasuri had a meeting with his Israeli counterpart Silvan Shalom in Turkey which led the groundwork for the historic meeting. Three years later, Musharraf held an informal meeting with Israeli defence minister Ehud Barak in Paris. Musharraf was eventually deposed and the matter was placed on the backburner.
This issue has been revived ever since four Muslim majority countries recognized Israel in US-brokered deals but this has reignited new controversies. It was revealed that even Nawaz Sharif had sent a delegation to Israeli during his second stint as prime minister. One was led by former JUI leader Afzal Qadri who had confirmed visiting Israel and even met Israeli Foreign Office officials and that Nawaz Sharif was keen to build ties.
The PTI is also embroiled in this controversy as it was revealed that an adviser to Prime Minister Imran Khan visited Tel Aviv in November. Although he was not named, many suspected it was Zulfi Bukhari as he holds a British passport and visited from London. He has denied any such visit and the PTI has called it a conspiracy. All these could be a ploy to create a debate on such a possibility.
Pakistan has vehemently denied even considering to establish ties with Israel unless the Palestine conflict is resolved. This is one issue on the government, armed forces and the entire nation is united that it will never recognize Israel despite the pressure from world powers. Such a decision would have a strong public reaction, unlike the Middle East where dictatorial regimes make policy decisions. Pakistan cannot afford the consequences unless the two-state solution is achieved.