Israeli president says
meeting with Pak delegation
an amazing experience,
suggests efforts to continue

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“All stems from the Abraham Accords, meaning Jews and Muslims can dwell together in the region; says Isaac Herzog. Pakistani delegation presents book on the country and Jinnah

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TEL AVIV: Israel President Isaac Herzog has said that he recently received a delegation of Pakistani-Americans, calling it an “amazing experience” and referring to it as an example that showed him “great change” vis-a-vis Israel’s ties with the Muslim world.

Herzog delivered these remarks during a special address at the annual World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting on May 26 in Davos, Switzerland, while talking about the Abraham Accords — a deal brokered by the United States in 2020 which saw normalisation of relations between Israel, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain.

“The Abraham Accords are giving a lot of yield. How would you see this for enlarging the scope of cooperation?” asked WEF President Børge Brende.

“I’ll tell you, you know, we are seeing it in all levels of life. Not speaking about just mere visits. We are seeing interest on all economic, scientific, innovation levels but I will tell you more about the personal feelings,” the president replied.

Herzog said that he had received two delegations last week which showed “the great change”.

Member of delegation Anila Ali presenting a book on Pakistan and Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah (Founder of Pakistan) to Israeli President Isaac Herzog. (Picture courtesy Sharaka)

“One was a delegation of young opinion-makers from Morocco who have aligned on Facebook with an Israeli [group]. They both came and sat with us for an hour and it was just amazing to listen to the experience of breaking barriers and moving forward and intertwining with each other,” he said.

The next day, Herzog said, he received a delegation of Pakistani expats who lived in the US “together with other members of other countries in their region”.

“And I must say this was an amazing experience. We haven’t had a group of Pakistani leaders in Israel in such scope. And that all stems from the Abraham Accords, meaning Jews and Muslims can dwell together in the region […].”

Although Herzog did not mention details about the Pakistanis he met, Sharaka — an Israeli non-government organisation (NGO) — had organised a visit of a Pakistan-American delegation to “promote peace in the Middle East”.

5-Pillars’s report

According to 5-Pillars news-outlet report a group of Pakistani Americans has visited Israel and met with the president in a visit sponsored by a pro-Israel civil society group.

Sharaka, which works to connect Israel with Gulf countries, sponsored the visit to promote Israeli-Pakistani relations.

The members of Pakistani-American delegation with Israel President Isaac Herzog. (Picture courtesy Sharaka)

In a tweet, Sharaka said it was “honoured to bring a delegation of Muslims and Sikhs from southeast Asia including the first Pakistani Jew allowed to travel to Israel to visit Israeli President Isaac Herzog. The delegates spoke to the President about their efforts to develop relationships with Israel.”

The Pakistani delegation was headed by a Pakistani-American lobbyist in the U.S., Aneela Ali who presented a book on Pakistan and Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah (Founder of Pakistan) to Israel president. It comprised Pakistanis such as Ahmed Quraishi who is an employee of state TV channel PTV, as well as Muslims from other countries.

Meetings between civil society figures from various countries and Israeli delegations could be a precursor to more formal relationships between nations at a future date.

The former Minister of Human Rights, Dr. Shireen Mazari, tweeted in Urdu: “I am not astonished to see Ahmad Qureshi in Israel because he is not only working for PTV but also but also has contacts with sensitive departments. He is promoting pro-Israeli agenda for more than one year while criticizing independent foreign policy of Imran Khan (the former Prime Minister). This shows that this is a different government (of Mian Shehbaz Sharif who replaced Imran Khan after a controversial vote of no confidence apparently maneuvered by the United States).”

Members of delegation poses for a picture during the Israeli visit.

Previous PM Imran Khan has repeatedly said that his government was ousted by the United States for his independent foreign policy. He also said that India and Israel were very happy over his ouster.

Khan repeatedly said that Pakistan would not recognise Israel but in a press interview In November 2020 he revealed he had been under pressure from some “friendly” countries to establish diplomatic relations with Tel Aviv.

Israel President Isaac Herzog gives a special address at the World Economic Forum annual meeting. (Screenshot courtesy WEF website)

Although he did not name them despite being asked repeatedly whether the pressure is from Muslim or non-Muslim countries, many believe he indirectly pointed to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). “Leave this [question]. There are things we cannot say. We have good relations with them,” Khan said.

Current Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has yet to comment on that matter, 5-Pillars concluded.

Foreign Office

The Spokesperson Foreign Office on Sunday categorically rejected the notion of any delegation from Pakistan visiting Israel. Responding to media queries, he said the reported visit in question was organized by a foreign NGO which was not based in Pakistan.

“Pakistan’s position on the Palestinian issue is clear and unambiguous. There is no change whatsoever in our policy on which there is complete national consensus.”

He said Pakistan steadfastly supported the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination. “The establishment of an independent, viable and contiguous Palestinian State with pre-1967 borders and Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital, in accordance with the relevant UN and OIC resolutions, is imperative for just and lasting peace in the region,” he added.

Dawn.com has reached out to the Foreign Office and the government spokesperson for a comment on the development. Pakistan does not recognise Israel and, therefore, doesn’t have diplomatic relations with it. Pakistan has been a staunch supporter of demands for a Palestinian state. After the Abraham accords, Pakistan had made clear that it cannot recognise Israel until a “just settlement of the Palestinian issue” is found.

“For just and lasting peace, it is imperative to have a two-state solution in accordance with relevant United Nations and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation resolutions, with the pre-1967 borders and Al-Quds Al-Sharif as capital of a viable, independent and contiguous Palestinian State,” the Foreign Office had said at the time.

However, the two countries have long maintained undeclared contacts at a lower level and the only known interaction took place on Sept 1, 2005, between the then foreign minister Khurshid Kasuri and his Israeli counterpart Silvan Shalom.