by Giles Fraser
Monday, 2
September 2019
13:39

Will Pakistan open talks with Israel?

by Giles Fraser
The sun sets over Tel Aviv’s skyline, Israel, on June 21, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

From Israel

The air hangs hot and heavy over this Tel Aviv morning. An attack by Hezbollah on the northern border is already yesterday’s news – no one was killed. An Israeli election is a few weeks away, and minor skirmishes between Israel and her enemies is regarded, by some at least, as a way for the Netanyahu government to remind voters of the importance of their security agenda.

But the more interesting speculation here is that, over in Pakistan, Imran Khan is giving licence to the highly state-regulated Pakistani press to speculate on the recognition of the state of Israel. What was once a taboo subject is now being openly discussed. This is a bold move by Khan, not least because he has often been on the receiving end of anti-Semitic propaganda, having once been married to Jemima Goldsmith who – though a convert to Islam – had Jewish family. But undeterred, the Pakistani media has apparently been given free rein openly to discuss the subject of Israel. “Why can’t we openly debate pros cons of opening direct and overt channels of communication with the State of Israel” tweeted veteran Pakistani journalist Kamran Khan last week.

See this morning’s Haaretz:

It’s a clear sign that the once-taboo subject of Islamabad probing potential relations with Israel has undergone a sea change – and is now entering mainstream discourse. The subject has been trending on Pakistani Twitter, and commentators have queried whether Imran Khan’s government itself is encouraging this debate – perhaps as a trial balloon before it considers any further steps.
- Haaretz

It would be an interesting move, not least because both states have a great deal in common. Both were created from the ashes of the Second world war – Pakistan in 1947, Israel in 1948 – both from the collapse of the British empire, and both with a specific religious designation. Also, both states were born in violence and with large immigrant populations. But somewhere behind this analogy also lurks the dangerous idea that Kashmir is a bit like the West Bank, with India pushing for ‘Indian settlers’ to shift the demographics of Kashmir and Pakistan imagining a Pakistani intifada against Indian rule. Perhaps the comparison of Israel and Pakistan is not as helpful as it seems.

 

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