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Which 5th Muslim country to recognise Israel next month?

Israeli minister himself rules out Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Trump has brokered rapprochements between Israel and UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco this year. Recognition issue under debate in Islamabad

Nation special report

LONDON: Political trend to extend recognition to Israel is reportedly in full gear in Islamic countries and the US has brokered rapprochements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco this year. Now, according to media reports, the fifth Muslim country is in pipeline and will recognise the Jewish state very soon and certainly before the tenure of President Donald Trump expire on January 20.

Israel is working toward formalising relations with a fifth Muslim country, possibly in Asia, during US President Donald Trump’s term, an Israeli cabinet minister said on Wednesday, clarifying that the country was not Pakistan.

Although Prime Minister Imran Khan revealed in November that Pakistan had been under pressure from some “friendly” countries to establish diplomatic relations with Israel, Islamabad has time and again refused to do so until the resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Asked if a fifth country could sign up before Trump steps down on January 20, Regional Cooperation Minister Ofir Akunis told Israel’s Ynet TV: “We are working in that direction. I believe […] there will be an American announcement about another country that is going public with the normalisation of relations with Israel and, in essence, with the infrastructure for an accord — a peace accord,” he said.

Israeli Regional Cooperation Minister Ofir Akunis

Akunis said there were two main candidate countries to become the next to move toward normal ties with Israel. He did not name either but said one is in the Gulf and could be Oman but would not be Saudi Arabia. The other, further to the East, is a “Muslim country that is not small” but is not Pakistan, Akunis said.

“There will be an American announcement about another country that is going public with the normalisation of relations with Israel and, in essence, with the infrastructure for an accord — a peace accord,” Akunis told Ynet TV, which was quoted by Israeli publication Haaretz.

Administration officials have said they are trying to get more countries to recognise Israel or warm existing ties to it.

Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country, said last week it would not recognise Israel as long as Palestinian statehood demands remain unmet. Malaysia and Pakistan have signalled a similar policy.

“Malaysia’s firm stance on the Palestinian issue will not change,” Deputy Foreign Minister Kamarudin Jaffar told the country’s senate on Wednesday, adding that Kuala Lumpur would not interfere in other nations’ decisions on Israel.

In Dhaka, a foreign ministry official said Bangladesh was not interested in establishing diplomatic ties with Israel. “Our position remains the same,” he said.

Oman has praised the US-brokered diplomatic drive but has not commented on its own prospects of forging Israel ties. The Palestinians, whose negotiations with Israel stalled in 2014, fear being sidelined by the normalisation process.

Recognition of Israel, setting up diplomatic relations with Jewish state and visit of two advisors to Baitul Muqqadas (Jerusalem) have ignited a new controversial debate in Pakistan nowadays. First three aspects of the subject have been denied at government level but informed sources, on the basis of media reports, are determined in their claim about the visits of two advisors of Prime Minister Imran Khan to Israel this year and even during last six months.

Amidst increasing rumours and speculations, Imran Khan himself had to come out with firm assurance of never recognize Israel until Palestinian rights were guaranteed and their independent state is not established.

These two personalities were Hafiz Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi and Zulfiqar Zulfi who allegedly visited Tel Aviv but now have denied their tours under the increasing criticism across the country. But the fact is that news of their visits even published in certain Pakistani newspapers. Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi commented that visiting Baitul Muqqadas and offering prayer there a blessing and honour for every Muslim and visiting there is nothing to do with recognition of Israel.