Why Pakistan Won’t Be Israel’s Next Muslim Ally

Jan. 18 2021

With each of the Jewish state’s groundbreaking normalization agreements with countries that previously treated it as a pariah, there has been increased speculation about which Arab or Muslim nation will be next to follow suit. In this vein there have been rumors and discussions about the possibility of diplomatic relations between Jerusalem and Islamabad. Efraim Inbar judges such a development beneficial for both parties, but highly unlikely:

Pakistani-Israeli peace is unlikely because of Pakistani domestic constraints and Islamabad’s foreign-policy orientation. [There] is great opposition to rapprochement with Israel, particularly among various Islamist circles that carry considerable political weight. Moreover, anti-Semitic convictions are widespread in Pakistan. According to a 2019 Pew poll, 74 percent of Pakistanis held unfavorable views of Jews.

Pakistan’s enmity towards Israel is of no real advantage to Pakistan. Arab states have not really supported Pakistan [in its own conflict with India over Kashmir]. By boycotting Israel, Pakistan forfeits much needed Israeli expertise in agriculture, telecommunications, water management, medical services, and high tech. A relationship with Israel also could open doors in Washington, where Pakistan is increasingly under suspicion for cooperation with China and Islamist terrorists.

Nevertheless, Israel would welcome in principle any approach by an important Muslim state such as Pakistan. . . . Israel also has an interest in diluting the religious dimension of conflict in the ethnoreligious Israel-Palestinian conflict. In contrast to the more secular West, Israelis understand the importance of religious matters in politics.

Unfortunately, international politics do not augur well for a near-term improvement in Israel-Pakistan ties. Pakistan is getting closer to Iran, a country whose leadership seeks the destruction of Israel.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Abraham Accords, Anti-Semitism, Israel diplomacy, Pakistan

When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount