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Foreign Media Reaction

September 12, 2005

PAKISTAN - ISRAEL RELATIONS:  THE 'FIRST FORMAL CONTACT'

KEY FINDINGS

**  Media vary in their estimation of the importance of this "historic" meeting in Istanbul.

**  Global outlets interpret Pakistan's altered approach to Israel as a "tactical move."

**  Middle East and Central Asian papers note Pakistanis may not "swallow this bitter pill."

**  Pakistani media debate:  a "step in the right direction" or disregard for the "popular will?"

MAJOR THEMES

The 'height' of Israel-Pakistan relations--  The meeting of Israeli and Pakistani foreign ministers was seen by Euro papers as an "important diplomatic result" for an Israel that hopes to end its "isolated" status.  Israeli media were far more restrained, with pluralist Yediot Aharonot characterizing the meeting as a welcome but "mainly symbolic" message to the Islamic world.  This may not be a "huge breakthrough," penned Canada's conservative National Post, but it does represent the "first fruits" of Israel's disengagement from Gaza.

The 'essence' of Pakistan's 'interests'--  Most papers, including some Pakistani media, acknowledged that "American influence" and Israel's "warming" military ties with India were responsible for Islamabad's redirection.  This is an important "calculation," said the centrist Indian Express, now that the U.S. is appearing more "accommodative" of India.  One Israeli writer posited that Pakistan might view talks between the two nuclear-capable countries as a means of "curbing pressures" to commit to non-proliferation after recently being found "partially responsible" for Iran's nuclear program.  Populist Pakistani media instead spotlit Pakistan's interest in having a "constructive role" in the Palestine issue, arguing that only countries having "good relations" with both Israel and the Palestinians can take part in resolving the dispute.

Its 'difficult to swing' domestic consensus--  In a nation where foreign policy is an "article of faith," Pakistan's independent Din declared that such a change invites "grave political danger."  One Palestinian writer insisted President Musharraf remember that "internal threats will result."  India's nationalist Hindustan Times attributed the "big problem" of domestic opposition to a "diet of anti-Semitism" ironically "fed" by Islamabad in the past.  Despite the potential gains, said one Israeli outlet, Musharraf will face "vocal and aggressive" Islamic opposition.  Iran's conservative Hamshahri agreed, confident that "no big progress" will occur in relations with Israel.

'Pak-Israel relations...positive or negative?'--  Centrist and populist Pakistani papers argued that declining to engage with Israel would be "pure folly," emphasizing that Pakistan will "stick to its stand" not to recognize Israel until a Palestinian state has been created.  While there isn't "necessarily any harm" in talking, noted center-left Dawn, it is "hard to avoid" the fact that the government made a decision without "popular or parliamentary consultations, as is the norm."  These decisions do not "reflect the popular will," agreed popular Ausaf.  Even more critical right-wing Jasarat called Musharraf a person of "dangerous mental frame."  In view of similar criticism, nationalist Nawa-e-Waqt advised the government to "take the people into confidence," and explain the reasons behind this "sudden meeting."

Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, rmrmail@state.gov

EDITOR:  Erin Carroll

EDITOR'S NOTE:  Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment.  Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion.  Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet.  This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government.  This analysis was based on 44 reports from 10 countries over 1 September - 12 September, 2005.  Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.

EUROPE

GERMANY:  "Surprising Visits"

Business daily Handelsblatt of Duesseldorf (9/6) editorialized:  "The withdrawal of 8,000 settlers from the Gaza Strip opens the gates to the world for Israel.  Muslim nations are showing interest in establishing contacts with the Jewish state.  The Pakistani foreign minister met with his Israeli counterpart last week, and Egyptian President Mubarak announced to visit Jerusalem at the end of this year--the first time in ten years.  That is only the beginning.  Much is happening behind closed doors at the moment.  There will be more surprising diplomatic developments in the next weeks.  Israeli ministers will visit Tunis, and Dubai will establish economic relations with Israel.  There could even be a Pakistani-Israeli summit.  There is no doubt that the Muslim world is overcoming its fears of Israel after the Gaza withdrawal.  But it is not just about Israel's relations.  Pakistan, Egypt and Jordan also hope for a better image in the United States.  Pakistani President Musharaf urgently needs America's help, and Amman and Cairo are also dependent on America.  However, the Muslim rulers will not be very patient with Israel.  If the withdrawal from Gaza turns out as Sharon's trick to get a better hold on the West Bank, the thaw will soon be over."

"Will Relations Become Normal Soon"

Jochen Buchsteiner commented in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (9/2):  "It is not the first time Pakistan says it is ready to see Israel with different eyes, but only the Gaza disengagement has put Islamabad in a situation at home where it can take action.  The first official meeting between both countries' foreign ministers initiated a process from which both sides will benefit.  Israel hopes that normal relations with the second largest Muslim country will increase the understanding of Israel's policy throughout the Muslim world, and Gen. Musharraf, whose commitment to fight domestic fundamentalists is not acknowledged by everybody, can once more claim to stand firm by West."

"Musharraf's Bravery"

Center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (9/2) editorialized:  "Once more, Musharraf shows that he is a brave president.  Pakistan wants to engage with Israel, which is a revolution of Pakistan's foreign policy, because relations with the Jewish country were unthinkable for decades....  Musharraf's move will further fuel the anger of Islamists at home, who have already condemned the meeting of the two foreign ministers as an attack on Pakistan's national interests.  However, Musharraf appears to see important reasons to principally change his foreign policy towards Israel.  Islamabad is suspicious of the close cooperation between its rival India and Israel, given that Jerusalem is one of Delhi's most important arms exporters....  To modernize his military, Musharraf needs America's support and Washington will appreciate the rapprochement between Pakistan and Israel.  Musharraf's policy is dangerous at home, but will guarantee Washington's support, which he also needs for the peace negotiations with India.  He also sends the message to the world that he is serious about his promise to make Pakistan a modern Islamic country." 

"Israel's Harvest"

Dietrich Alexander noted in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (9/2):  "Israel begins to bring in the harvest from its disengagement policy.  It is indeed of universal political significance when the nuclear Islamic power Pakistan desires to get in contact with the Jewish state, when Turkey manages the difficult event, and when even Palestinian President Abbas and Saudi King Abdullah welcome the revolutionary process.  Above all there is Pakistan, which has denied Israel its right to exist for a long time.  However, the thaw could soon end if a Palestinian state is not gaining shape, which is relies on further Israeli pullouts from the West Bank.  It can also not be ruled out that Pakistan simply made a tactical move to counteract the relations between Israel and its main rival India."

ITALY:  "Pakistan Nearing Israel:  And It Is Not Alone"

Ugo Tramballi commented in leading business daily Il Sole-24 Ore (2/9):  “Concerned by the danger of a return to power of Bibi Netanyahu, a super-hawk, finally, from the Islamic world there are signs of opening towards Ariel Sharon.  Yesterday in Istanbul, with Turkish mediation, the foreign ministers of Israel and Pakistan publicly shook hands....  Yesterday’s meeting in Istanbul is an important sign of political consideration for Israel's pullout from Gaza and four colonies in the West Bank....  Some time ago, just when the decision to withdraw from Gaza had been announced, General Pervez Musharraf had defined Ariel Sharon as ‘a great soldier and brave leader.’  The statements made by Pakistan’s President and the handshake in Turkey are not however an official acknowledgment or the beginning of full relations....  Yesterday Islamic opposition parties [in Pakistan] immediately protested against the opening towards Israel.  But the openings remain....  For the Jewish State this is an important diplomatic result....  Sharon needs all this international support to demonstrate that Israel is no longer isolated: and, in fact, it is not since its withdrawal from Gaza.”

"Dialogue Between Israel And Pakistan"

Renato Caprile in left-leaning, influential daily La Repubblica (2/9) declared:  “Israel cashes in its first reward for disengaging from the Gaza Strip and it undertakes overt diplomatic contacts with the Pakistan of Pervez Musharraf....  The historic encounter between the foreign ministers of the two countries, Silvan Shalom and Khurshid Mehmud Kasuri, took place yesterday in neutral Istanbul, Turkey....  For Pakistan, this is a sort of acknowledgment of the effort made in Gaza by Jerusalem's government, as well as a further demonstration of loyalty towards the American ally.  On Israel's part, this is an attempt to open up a new, extremely important channel of dialogue with the Islamic world.  However, both parties emphasized that this is only a first step, slightly more than an initial contact, which nonetheless could prelude to an official announcement of normal diplomatic relations between the two countries in occasion of the meeting, in mid-September in New York, between Musharraf and Israeli Prime Minister Sharon, attending the United Nations General Assembly.”

TURKEY:  "This Role Suits Turkey"

Gungor Mengi wrote in mass-appeal, center-right Vatan (9/2):  "These events boost emotions and remind us of President Clinton's 1999 speech.  Those were important messages:  'I believe that the next century will be largely shaped by how Turkey defines its present and future role.'  In the same speech Clinton told U.S. allies that they must believe that 'Europe and the Islamic world can come together in peace and harmony only in Turkey.'  Istanbul has hosted an event that the world press reported among the top news items yesterday....  The Israeli foreign minister thanked Prime Minister Erdogan for facilitating this meeting.  This important development, which may affect balances in the region, started with a phone call from Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to Erdogan.  The rise of extreme conservatives to power in Iran was causing uneasiness even as Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip offered hope.  Erdogan, who called Israel a 'terrorist country' last year, agreed to take on this role and called Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, even at the risk drawing poisonous arrows from his own constituency.  The result is a picture of a Turkey that uses its power to influence the destiny of the world in a positive direction.  People who have shut down the horizons of their minds because of their ideological obsessions always look for signs of appeasing the United States in such quests.  The truth is that it is in Turkey's own interests to help Muslim nations to establish ties with the West.  Our security, stability, and economic prosperity are improved in proportion to the number of our neighbors that have developed relations with the West and with each other and that respect individual rights and freedoms.  The mission that was accomplished in Istanbul will also help Turkey on the path leading to 3 October.  Every event that reminds the EU of the address of the bridge that brings together Europe and the Muslim world is important."

MIDDLE EAST

ISRAEL:  "Pointless Signs Of Relations"

Middle East affairs commentator Guy Bechor, a lecturer at the Interdisciplinary Center, wrote in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (9/8):  "Arab and Muslim states have always taken advantage of Israel in order to establish better relations with the U.S....  They have no real interest in Israel, her economy, or people....  Since public opinion in the Arab and Muslim worlds is so hostile to Israel, no Arab leader will dare endanger his stability and come to Israel itself or to establish formal diplomatic ties with it.  Israeli readers have no idea how big hatred for Israel is in the Arab street, and how badly the Palestinians have turned their public opinion against Israel during five years of Intifada.  When will an Arab leader come to Israel or make peace with her?  Only when things become critical and this is the last option left for their survival....  Israel must abandon the perception from the nineties, which reasoned that we must beg every Arab tyrant to meet with us, and understand that Pakistan isn't doing Israel a favor when it exacts a price for a photo-op....  Israel must demand an immediate payment for every such encounter, in the form of full diplomatic relations or in exchange for another political gesture.  Israel has always volunteered to care for others in the first place, without understanding that the opposite is true in the Middle East--as in the famous Arabic proverb:  'People won't respect those who don't respect themselves.'"

"A Reward For Withdrawal"

Diplomatic correspondent Aluf Benn wrote in independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz (9/2):  "The equation was written during the first stages of the peace process, at the 1991 Madrid Conference:  Israel would gradually end its occupation of the territories and would receive, in turn, diplomatic recognition and economic opportunities from the 'outer circle' nations.  The idea was that, in exchange for the territories, Israel would achieve international acceptance, which would encourage it to continue the process.  The United States exercised its diplomatic might toward this end, and Israel exploited its image as having magic powers in Washington....  Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan presented a good opportunity for renewing efforts to establish ties in the Arab and Muslim world.  Silvan Shalom brings up the issue with his U.S. and EU counterparts at every meeting.  For months, aides have been searching for a breakthrough in Asia, Africa and the Maghreb.  Pakistan was the first to reward Israel for the Gaza withdrawal."

"Pakistan's Play"

Conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (9/2):  "Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf has been quick to deny that yesterday's historic public meeting between the Pakistani and Israeli foreign ministers presages the imminent opening of diplomatic relations....  But the pictures of smiling ministers Kurshid Kasuri and Silvan Shalom speak louder than a thousand protestations....  The motives behind this opening more likely relate to the United States and to India than they do to Palestine.  Gestures toward Israel are likely seen as an easy way to curry favor with the U.S. while giving Israel a possible reason to set limits on its warming military ties to India....  The Muslim and Arab boycott of Israel harms the cause of Palestine because it conflicts with the two-state solution on which the establishment of a Palestinian state is supposedly based....  Muslim and Arab states have at least as great an interest, whether narrowly or broadly defined, in opening ties with Israel as we do with them.  By being among the first, Pakistan may benefit slightly more than those who follow.  But this is no argument for straggling, because the cost of being in the rejectionist camp are likely to go up."

"Meaningful Message To The Muslim World"

Dr. Meir Litvak, a senior researcher in the department of Middle Eastern History at Tel Aviv University, wrote in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (9/2):  "The importance of the meeting between Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom and Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri is mainly symbolic, although we should not make light of the importance of symbols.  Pakistan, the second largest Muslim country in the world, where Islam is the basis for its national identity, was hostile to Zionism and to Israel since the state was established.  There is no doubt that Thursday's meeting holds a meaningful message for other Muslim countries and Muslim societies and gives legitimacy to Israel from a leading Islamic country.  This having been said, it is reasonable to assume that Pakistan's motives for the meeting have more to do with its relations with the U.S. and the need of General Pervez Musharraf's regime to earn further American support....  Even if the foreign ministers' meeting on Thursday does not herald a strategic change, there is no question that it is something beneficial and should be welcomed."

"Target:  U.S."

Dr. Shmuel Bar, a senior research fellow at the Interdisciplinary Center, wrote in popular, pluralist Maariv (9/2):  "What in essence are the Pakistanis' interests in ties with Israel about?  It turns out that they have quite a few.  First and foremost, Pakistan views Israel as a comfortable and quick means to win over the heart of the U.S.  The strengthening of Pakistan's moderate image and even presenting it as advancing the peace process in the Middle East would help the Pakistanis vis a vis the Americans and prove that it is worthy of their support despite its non-democratic regime....  Furthermore, Pakistan has much interest in curbing military ties between Israel and its bitter enemy, India.  It is also possible that Pakistan views coordination with Israel--also considered a country with a nuclear capability--as a way of curbing pressures to make a commitment not to spread WMD.  This is primarily in the wake of its having been designated as partially responsible for the Iranian nuclear program.  On the other hand, and despite all these interests, Musharraf must continue to deal with vocal and aggressive Islamic opposition, which has already declared the day of recognition of Israel as a black day in the history of Pakistan.  Which interests and pressures will be the decisive ones?  It is possible that we shall soon know."  

WEST BANK:  "Pakistan And The Meeting With Israel"

Independent Al-Quds editorialized (9/1):  "The meeting between Pakistan and Israel highlighted in the media yesterday is that rare kind that can only be rated as an example of the political equation we mentioned before:  building relations with another country to satisfy a third one, that is the U.S., who partners with Pakistan in waging the ‘war against terrorism’....  If Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is concerned about his country’s independence and wishes to keep foreign threats away from targeted Pakistan... he must remember that internal threats will result from such a step, which actually began to appear right after the disclosure of the Istanbul meeting between the Pakistani and Israeli FMs.  Pressures Musharraf had to face were not so strong as to force him to accelerate the establishment of relations with Israel, no matter what these relations are, and without Israel acknowledging the rights of Palestinians and withdrawing from land occupied in 1967.”

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA

INDIA:  "Islamabad Seeks Out Tel Aviv"

The left-of-center Free Press Journal (9/7):  "But without doubt, Islamabad could not have been comfortable with the growing Indo-Israeli military cooperation.  Its decision to establish a contact at a very high level with Tel Aviv reveals its considered strategy to neutralize the advantage that India has vis-à-vis relations with Israel.  It should be understood that General Musharraf allowed his foreign minister to publicly meet his Israeli counterpart even in the teeth of stiff opposition to such a meeting from the fundamentalist Islamic groups in Pakistan.  Clearly, the growing concerns about Indo-Israel cooperation outweighed the consequences of the ire of the fundamentalist groups to any truck with the ‘enemy Jewish State of Israel.’  However, Washington would have quietly encouraged General Musharraf to establish contact with Israel for what could eventually lead to the establishment of normal diplomatic ties.  Happily for India, Israel is said to have kept her duly in the loop about the latter's contacts with Pakistan....  Israel is too shrewd and confident a nation to jeopardize its ties with India merely because General Musharraf has decided to woo it only to drive a wedge between it and this country.  On its part, India can have no reason to be worried.  Indeed, as a friendly nation, Israel can be expected to use its influence on Pakistan for the good of the entire region.”

"Read The Pak-Israel Bonhomie Right"

The centrist Indian Express (9/7) carried an editorial by Professor P.R. Kumaraswamya from Jawaharlal Nehru University:  "While it may be too early for Israel to celebrate, the importance of the highly publicized first official meeting between the foreign ministers of Israel and Pakistan cannot be ignored.  It raises the Israeli-Pakistani interaction to a higher level and could be a precursor to an impending normalization of ties between the two countries.  It comes in the context of President Musharraf's visit to the UN and his expected address to the influential American Jewish Committee.  Both sides are working towards a summit meeting between Musharraf and old Israeli war-horse, Ariel Sharon....  Friendliness towards Israel plays well into Pakistan’s pro-U.S. policy as Musharraf sees the Jewish state as yet another means of consolidating Pakistan’s ties with the U.S.  This calculation becomes important when the Bush administration appears to be more accommodative of India than at any time in the past.  Also, closer ties with Israel present a favorable image for Pakistan, and would compel Washington to look to Islamabad as a liberal, non-conservative, non-militant model for other Islamic countries.  Second, Pakistani efforts to neutralize Indo-Israeli relations have been futile.  Its rhetoric about an Indo-Israeli conspiracy against the Islamic world fell on deaf ears....  Ideally, Pakistan-Israeli relations should free India of its traditional baggage and enable it pursue a more activist policy to the Middle East and try to act as interlocutors between Israel and its Arab/Islamic adversaries.  Progress in the Pakistan-Israeli ties would enable it to mitigate criticism from countries like Egypt paranoid over Indo-Israeli ties.  But there is no getting away from the fact that, for Israel, Pakistan is better qualified as an effective channel of communication, especially because of its close political connections with countries like Saudi Arabia, Jordan as well as with the Organisation of the Islamic Conference.  India may have to now swallow a bitter pill:  in the past New Delhi competed with Pakistan to seek Arab support, now it is reduced to doing the same to retain its friendship with Israel.  Times have changed but India’s basic competition with Pakistan in the Middle East looks eternal."

"U-Turn"

The centrist Asian Age (9/6) commented:  "The path-breaking meeting between the Pakistani foreign minister Khurshid M. Kasuri and his Israeli counterpart Silvan Shalom in Turkey once again underscored the significance of the age-old dictum of diplomacy:  there are no permanent friends or permanent enemies, but only enduring interests....  One, since the move was clearly made at U.S. President George W. Bush’s behest, now Islamabad will be able to curry even more favors with Washington.  Two, Pakistan which must have been feeling jittery with the growing ties between Tel Aviv and New Delhi, will now expect to find a level playing field.  Three, apart from these advantages for his country, Gen. Musharraf has also taken out an insurance policy for his own political survival from Washington.  Finally, what better way of seeking international recognition as an enlightened Muslim statesman, than by establishing diplomatic contacts with a country which is considered an untouchable by nearly the entire Muslim world?"

"Breaking The Ice"

The centrist Times of India (9/6) editorialized:  "Despite Islamabad's clarification that it was not rushing to recognize Israel and current contacts are only a gesture indicating engagement, the photographs of foreign ministers of both countries, smiling and shaking hands, told their own story.  This is the first time Islamabad has broken the diplomatic ice with Tel Aviv, and New Delhi must ponder its implications.  In a sense, the wheel will come full circle if Islamabad were to establish full diplomatic relations with Tel Aviv.  Initially, New Delhi had keeled over almost wholly to the Arab side in the Israeli-Arab stand-off, keen to offset Pakistani influence in the Gulf.  With post-Cold War realignments in its foreign policy, New Delhi moved towards a more balanced posture....  With the Indo-Israeli defense relationship fructifying and shifting the strategic balance in South Asia in India’s favor, it is now Islamabad that is keen to offset that advantage.  Both Pakistan and Israel are states founded on religion, but ironically Israel and Jews have been demonized for so long by Islamabad that General Musharraf will find it difficult to swing domestic consensus behind a rapprochement with Israel.  This will act as the chief constraint on normalizing the Pakistan-Israel relationship.  On the geopolitical chessboard, the implications of Islamabad's move can be both positive and challenging for New Delhi....  Also, Islamabad is prone to make comparisons between Palestine and Kashmir.  If it can reach out to Israel despite Palestine, it should be able to reach out to India despite differences over Kashmir.  On the other hand, New Delhi must not be caught napping in the Middle East now that Islamabad has made its moves.  It will have to display deft diplomatic footwork in balancing its interests in Israel, the Gulf, and Iran."

"Islamabad Calling Tel Aviv"

The nationalist Hindustan Times editorialized (9/3):  "The first ever publicly acknowledged high-level contact between Pakistan and Israel is remarkable, but not surprising.  True, as recently as a couple of years ago, it would have been unthinkable for Islamabad to even publicly mention the issue of recognizing Israel.  This was evident when the office of a Pakistani daily was attacked for publishing Israeli Deputy Premier Shimon Peres's call for establishing bilateral ties between the two countries.  Significantly, the first official meeting between the two countries took place in Turkey, a country that has good ties with Israel and whose 'enlightened moderation' on Islamic issues is something that Pervez Musharraf would like to have his country emulate.  Is there a U.S. connection in this?  We can't be sure.  But there is almost certainly an Indian connection.  New Delhi's excellent relations with Israel have been the grist to the Pakistani rumor mill....  In more practical terms, India's defense acquisitions from Israel have caused unconscionable alarm in Pakistan.  Islamabad clearly hopes to limit this relationship by engaging Tel Aviv.  But the big problem for Gen. Musharraf is to factor in domestic public opinion which has been fed on a diet of anti-Semitism.  Undoubtedly, Tel Aviv and Washington see the development as a means of influencing other Muslim States in the region into abandoning their policy of confrontation with the Jewish State.  Whether or not things work this way can't be easily determined.  Relations between India and Israel are not just based on arms transfers, but the genuine admiration that many sections of Indian society have for Israel and its achievements.  In this context, there has been some unhappiness in Tel Aviv over New Delhi's coolness and refusal to offer nothing but token acknowledgment of the enormous difficulties that it overcame to press with the Gaza withdrawal."

"Shalom Pakistan"

Pro-BJP right-of-center Pioneer (9/3) opined:  "On the face of it, there is every reason to cheer Israel for its diplomatic coup--after all, by getting Kasuri to break bread with Shalom, Tel Aviv has cocked a snook and more at its Arab neighbors who are yet to reconcile themselves to the existence of a Jewish state in their midst.  In a sense, seen from Israel's perspective, the establishment of diplomatic relations with Pakistan will mean one enemy less.  However, this good news is marred by India's stunning and silent reversal of its policy on Israel.  Ever since the UPA came to power in the summer of 2004, the blossoming of Indo-Israeli relations has been put into reverse gear because the Left wants the Congress to abandon the post-1992 policy of befriending Tel Aviv that fetched us both military and strategic advantage.  Relics of the Cold War era who now wield influence in the UPA Government have only made matters worse.  So much so, the Prime Minister has not had the grace to congratulate Sharon for his brave act of pulling out of Gaza.  Therefore, seen from India's perspective, Pakistan has stolen a march over us in Istanbul.  We may yet live to regret Thursday's meeting."

PAKISTAN:  "Pakistan-Israel Diplomacy:  Hypocrisy Of The Radicals"

Dr. Ishtiaq Ahmad editorialized in centrist national English-language daily The News (9/9):  "While there appears to be nothing unusual about the Jamaat-e-Islami-led Islamist opposition's over-reaction to the government's open diplomacy with Israel, an investigative account of the historical conduct of radical Islamist movements vis-a-vis the Palestinians issue in the run-up to the Istanbul meeting reveals a tale of hypocrisy, irony and even tragedy.  First, the hypocrisy, which emanates from the fact that much of the decades-long national drive towards recognizing Israel, mostly secret and sometime overtly expressed, has been led by Islamist elements....  Last but not the least is the element of tragedy, which emanates directly from the Islamists' historic relationship with the Palestinian issue itself.  The tragedy pertains to religious radicalization of an essentially secular-political nationalist movement.  The Palestinian resistance movement has always been a nationalist movement, having essentially a secular-political context.  This is partly due to the fact that not all Palestinians are Muslims.  In fact, the most violent episodes in this resistance movement are associated with the Popular Liberation Front of the Palestinians (PLFP) of George Habbash, a Christian.  Leila Khalid, the Palestinian woman known for being the first Muslim woman hijacker, was a PLFP member.  As far as Arafat's Fatah or other Palestinian organizations were concerned, they were much more inspired from the socialist revolutionary movements of the 1950s or 1960s than the radical Islamist philosophy of Maulana Maududi [the founder of Jamaat-e Islami] or his Egyptian counterparts, Hasan al-Banna and Syed Qutub....  Leaving aside the hypocrisy, the irony and the tragedy pertaining to the Islamists' conduct with the Jewish entity and their relationship with the Palestinian issue, the principal challenge before the current Palestinian leadership of President Mahmoud Abbas is how to reclaim the secular-political within which the politics for Palestine by the Palestinians were mostly played.  His request to Pakistan to send a high-level delegation to Palestine, for which Islamabad needs official Israeli permission, and Pakistan's consequent contact with Israel to prepare for the said visit promised to the Palestinians are all nothing but successive stages to help the Palestinian leadership in its bid to prevent the hijacking of the Palestinian issue by Hamas, Islamic Jihad or their affiliates in Pakistan."

"Pakistan's Role In The Resolution Of Palestine Issue And The Interview Of Israeli Foreign Minister"

Lahore-based populist Urdu daily Khabrain (9/8) opined:  "In an interview with Khabrain, Israeli Foreign Minister and Deputy PM Silvan Shalom has said that the Israeli nation does not consider Pakistan a terrorist state.  He added there is no territorial or economic dispute between Israel and Pakistan, and that Israel wants good relations with Muslim countries.  He added that only countries having good relations with both [Israelis and Palestinians] can play a role in resolving the dispute....  However, Pakistan has clearly said that it would recognize Israel only after an independent Palestinian state is established.  It is obvious that Arab countries would also be willing to recognize Israel once an independent Palestinian state is formed.  At a time when the scenario is changing rapidly around the world, Pakistan needs to conduct its affairs in the best national interests....  It is important to note that if the Palestinians have no objection to Pakistani-Israeli contact, why are domestic circles raising a hue and cry?"

"Pak-Israel Contacts:  New Direction"

Salim Yazdani in the leading mass circulation Urdu daily Jang (9/8) commented:  "The government of Pakistan has chosen a highly appropriate time to establish contacts with Israel leading towards its formal recognition.  Since the level of opposition in the Arab countries against Israel has attained zero level, therefore it is a considered decision of President Musharraf and his government to move towards this end.  Most of the political parties in Pakistan, including former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, are in favor of contacts with Israel.  Now it is to be seen how beneficial relations with Israel would be for Pakistan.  It is clear the President Musharraf government is inching towards the recognition of Israel notwithstanding the fact that religious right is deadly against this move."

"When Foreign Ministers And Foreign Secretaries Met..."

Qudssia Akhlaque declared in center-left independent national English-language Dawn (9/8):  "Israel is now officially and openly on Pakistan’s radar.  The first formal overt diplomatic contact between the two countries was made in Istanbul last week.  It is a handshake, not an embrace, an engagement not endorsement, is how this interaction is being referred to by Pakistan’s foreign policy establishment.  Some Pakistani diplomats even prefer to characterize the current status of rapprochement with Israel as ‘contact’ rather than engagement which, they say, would mean sustained contacts.  Irrespective of how this dramatic diplomatic posturing is packaged it has set stage for future engagement....  The possibility of some confidence-building measures, including a meeting between President Musharraf and the Israeli Prime Minister at a later stage were also discussed during the 90-minute dinner encounter.  The Israeli side was keen that the travel ban to Israel on Pakistani passport be done away with....  The key question however now is what roadmap Islamabad has in mind for the coming months and years in terms of a concrete quid pro quo that Pakistan will get out of it.  It is being widely asked what step two and three will be.  Will it also mean Israeli support in U.S. Congress for enhanced status for Pakistan as a nuclear power, the kind of status India is now getting?  While publicizing a quid pro quo at this time would be unwise, the hope is that architects of the Istanbul engagement have a roadmap in place."

"Don't Do This Again"

The centrist national English daily, The News (9/8) declared:  "Qazi Hussain Ahmad's demand last Friday that President Musharraf and his government resign could have been dismissed as a knee-jerk reaction to Foreign Minister Kasuri's official meeting with his Israeli counterpart the previous day, and something largely confined to the MMA President himself.  The demand wasn't just irresponsible; infantile is more the word:  it's as if the resignations were within the realm of possibility.  But it was repeated on Sunday, and not just by the Qazi, who presided over the event, but by the entire National Leaders Conference.  It was attended by 37 parties, factions and groups....  It's unfortunate that the participants, who included such respected political leaders as Makhdoom Amin Fahim, not only went along with the Qazi in that demand, but also concurred with his plan for a countrywide 'wheel-jam strike' tomorrow....  This strike threat by the opposition is no laughing matter, though.  Even when they have been unsuccessful--the MMA doesn't seem to have come to the realization that it's not 1977--these strikes have usually led to violence and deaths.  But the lost workdays and wages, the burned public vehicles and the all-round chaos remain an essential part of the strikes....  The opposition should review its decision about tomorrow.  Otherwise, the consequences could be serious."

"Apply Collective Wisdom"

Islamabad-based Urdu daily Jinnah (9/7) declared:  "Following Jordan and Sudan, Iran has also condemned the recent Pak-Israeli contact, and termed it as a shocking surprise.  Besides, it has also postponed the scheduled visit of the nuclear Coordinator Larijani to Pakistan.  Although, several Middle Eastern countries have diplomatic ties with Israel, the Pakistani nation, as well as other Muslim countries has not accepted the recent Pakistani initiative.  Since, Pakistan has a unique position among the Muslim countries, it will be appropriate to call an emergency meeting of the OIC to discuss the pros and cons of this issue."

"Finally Some Maturity"

Shakir Husain opined in the centrist national English daily The News (9/7):  "For countries not to engage with each other is pure folly, and for anyone in Pakistan to believe that Pakistan can play an active role in the Middle Eastern politics without engaging the State of Israel is just plain stupid....  If large Muslim States like Pakistan do not engage with Israel, then right-wing governments like Sharon's find it all to easy to perpetuate the worst crimes and justify it to their people in the name of national security.  If the average Israelis see countries like Pakistan engage with them, they can see that there will be a peace dividend once a fair solution is found.  The Opposition should also remember that this is not the first time that Pakistan is meeting or doing business with the Israelis....  If Pakistan wants to position itself as a player in the region and in world affairs then this is the way to move forward.  The soft and hard power that the tiny State of Israel wields in global politics is completely disproportionate to their size, but then there it is.  No one is selling out on the principle of supporting the Palestinian people, but it's not a zero sum game.  The Opposition should be more concerned about the well being of average Pakistanis rather than making a mountain out of a molehill.  Well done General, but just don't go flip-flopping on this one as you have in the past."

"Reverberations Of The Kasuri-Shalom Meeting"

Shireen M. Mazari commented in the centrist national English daily The News (9/7):  "But a high profile meeting has more benefits for Israel than for Pakistan at this moment in time, because it does make recognition imminent rather than conditional.  We must not underplay our value for Israel, given our status as a strong and nuclear Muslim state with influence and status within the Muslim World.  We may presently be going through a psychological lack of confidence in assessing our place in the region and within the Muslim World, but we are seen as a critical regional and Muslim World player from outside--and one that has the ability to hold out for its critical national interests, as reflected in the development of our nuclear capability....  The Arabs are confused because they are in no position, either morally or politically, to out rightly condemn Pakistan's moves on Israel; but they are uncomfortable with these moves because they feel they will lose a strong pillar of support for the Palestinian cause.  It is important for Pakistan to acknowledge this and make its demands on the Arab World accordingly."

"Weathering All Sorts Of Storms"

Mahir Ali wrote in the Karachi-based center-left independent national English daily, Dawn (9/7):  "As a matter of principle, there isn’t necessarily any harm in Pakistan and Israel talking to each other, or even in establishing diplomatic relations, de facto or otherwise.  Such relations do not oblige either party to be particularly friendly, let alone to condone everything the other side says or does.  Any move towards introducing greater civility into international relations generally deserves to be welcomed....  In the meantime, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the Pakistan government has taken a decision (without popular or parliamentary consultations, as is the norm) that is not necessarily reprehensible, but it has done so at an inappropriate juncture and quite possibly for all the wrong reasons.  All the same, chances are that Musharraf will be able to weather the storm, if there is one."

"Pak-Israel Contacts--Nation Should Be Taken Into Confidence"

Popular Islamabad-based Urdu daily Ausaf (9/6):  "Following the 9/11 incidents...decisions based on personal whims have been imposed on the nation.  Now, if we have no compulsions to make contact with Israel, why are the Pakistani rulers eager to go ahead with meeting the Israeli leaders?....  The Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri has said that there was no need to take the cabinet and parliament into confidence regarding contact with Israel.  Those rulers who have no regard for the decisions of the cabinet and the elected parliament, how could they take the people into confidence?   Besides, these decisions do not reflect the popular will of the nation either."

"Final Destination:  Creation Of Independent Palestinian State"

Peshawar-based Urdu daily Mashriq (9/6) editorialized:  "President Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz have assured Pakistan would not recognize Israel until the resolution of the Palestine issue.  So, we should not make fuss on this issue anymore.  Certainly, Pakistan will adopt a future policy on Israel which will have the approval of the Muslim world.  Anyhow, even Mr. Mahmood Abbas has no objection to Pakistani contacts with Israel." 

"Pak-Israel Contacts:  Important Step In The Right Direction"

 Irshad Ahmad Haqqani opined in the leading mass circulation Urdu daily Jang (9/4):  "There is no bilateral dispute between Pakistan and Israel.  It is not insignificant that the Israeli Foreign Minister for the first time in history thought it appropriate to say that the coming closer of Israel and Pakistan would help in resolving the Palestinian and Kashmir issues.  Prior to this meeting, was anything to that effect ever heard from some Israeli official?  There is no denying the fact that due to distances between Pakistan and Israel, all the powerful Jewish lobbies in the world have been working against Pakistan and the absence of such a distance has brought India and Israel closer.  This closeness would still persist, but now Israel would have to keep the Pakistani sentiments in its mind prior to forging relations with India.  It is also not wrong to assume that after this new relationship, Pakistan would be in a position to [exercise] influence in favor of Palestinians in the Israel-Palestinian row."

"The Height Of Israel-Pakistan Relations"

Karachi-based, right-wing pro-Islamic unity Urdu daily Jasarat (9/3) declared:  "President Pervez Musharraf is a person of dangerous mental frame. After 9/11, he has constantly proved that he could do anything at any time.  He sacrificed Pakistan’s independence, sovereignty and national pride on one telephone call.  In a single stroke of pen he negated the 25-year old Afghan policy.  On the instructions of the U.S., he brought about changes in the curriculum and forged unilateral relations with India at the cost of Kashmir issue.  And now he is out to recognize Israel that has no religious, historical, legal oral, political and cultural justification."

"Pak-Israel Relations ... Positive or Negative?"

The Karachi-based Urdu daily Express (9/3) commented:  "It would be a bit too much to term the meeting of the foreign ministers of Pakistan and Israel as recognition of Israel by Pakistan.  Some Arab countries have recognized Israel but those who have not, too, hold meetings with Israelis, and the Palestinians are no exception.  After all, there should be a solution to the Palestine-Israel row.  This meeting could be a step towards that direction.  President Musharraf has said that Pakistan would play its due role for the resolution of Palestinian issue.  When such is the intention, then these contacts should be taken more seriously rather being looked at with suspicion."

"Free Palestine A Must"

The second largest nationalist Urdu daily Nawa-e-Waqt (9/6) editorialized:  "Reacting on Pakistan Foreign Minister's meeting with Israeli foreign minister, Palestine information minister has said that rewarding Israel for vacating Gaza settlements was not needed.  Pakistan has stabbed Palestinians in the back, he said....  There is a strong reaction against the meeting, inside and outside Pakistan....  There is lot to be done for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state as the Muslims sacred place of worship and East Jerusalem has to be vacated."

"Pak-Israel Contacts and Foreign Ministers Meeting"

The second largest nationalist Urdu daily Nawa-e-Waqt (9/3) opined:  "Perhaps the government has initiated contact with Israel to counter Indian attitude and policies.  However, for the people of Pakistan it is an ideological and emotional issue; they are not willing to swallow this bitter pill.  It is imperative that the government takes the people into confidence and come up with the facts that led to this sudden meeting of the two foreign ministers.  The President should come on TV and tell the people as to how increasing India-Israel cooperation can be stopped with such contacts and what are Pakistan's interests in this policy.  Has Pakistan countered India-Israel cooperation or became a part of that?"

"Pak-Israel Relations And The Establishment Of An Independent Palestine"

Populist Urdu daily Khabrain (9/6):  "Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has expressed the hope that a free Palestinian state would be established by next year.  President Musharraf has assured him the Pakistan would not recognize Israel until it withdraws completely and an independent Palestinian state is established....  It is surprising that certain circles in Pakistan are strongly criticizing the initiation of dialogue between Pakistan and Israel and are trying to incite the public against the government by linking certain other issues with it.  However, the [Palestinian] people who are directly concerned are terming it a positive development and are hoping that this would help Pakistan play a constructive role in resolving the Palestine issue....  The government does not plan to recognize Israel in haste.  Of course it will ponder all aspects of this issue before making a decision.  Hence instead of criticizing this development, all circles must initiate a national debate on it and discuss it threadbare to arrive at a conclusion.  It should also be hoped that the expectations with which the government has initiated contact with Israel are fulfilled and Israel would agree to the establishment of an independent Palestine."

"The First Formal Contact With Israel"

Lahore-based independent Urdu daily Din (9/3):  "The meeting between the Pakistani and Israeli Foreign Ministers in Ankara is the second major development after President Musharraf's decision to address the World Jewish Council that signals a shift towards realism in Pakistan's foreign policy.  Following a meeting with his Israeli counterpart, Foreign Minister Kasuri said that Pakistan has decided to talk with Israel.  It goes without saying that this meeting was neither accidental, nor concealed, which shows that President Musharraf has decided not to be intimidated by opposition from the religious groups....  Undoubtedly, a change in policy towards Israel is no ordinary step, it is tantamount to stirring a hornet's nest.  Bringing such a change in a country where foreign policy is seen as an article of faith and there is no willingness to hear any arguments, is inviting grave political danger, although no sane person can dispute the fact that relations between states are formed on reality and interests....  The wise say that you must make peace if you cannot beat the other; a state of 'neither war, nor peace' is more devastating than war itself.  We cannot close our eyes to this reality.  If Pakistan continues to ignore Israel, its increasing relations with India would pose problems for Pakistan.  Hence it is in Pakistan's national interests that it does not give Israel room to increase ties with India, but establish such relations with it where the hostility in its behavior is minimized.  This does not mean that Pakistan retreat from the joint OIC stance on Israel, and Pakistan has clearly said that it would recognize Israel only after an independent Palestinian state is established."  

"Pak-Israel Official Contact"

Populist Urdu daily Khabrain (9/3):  "Pakistan fought three wars with India, India broke Pakistan into two pieces, and always worked to humiliate Pakistan yet the two countries not only talk with each other at the highest levels of government, but maintain diplomatic relations too.  Pakistan and Israel have just established official contact, while the situation is such that several Arab countries have recognized Israel and many Islamic countries are preparing to do so.  The Pakistan government must consider all the pros and cons and make a decision in the best national interests.  Pakistan should stick to the stand that it would recognize Israel only when the Palestinian state is established, but the dialogue process must continue."

"As If We Have No Problems"

The sensationalist Urdu daily Ummat (9/4):  "It seems as if we have resolved all our basic and important issues and now we have the time to get out and resolve the Palestine issue.  President Musharraf who has been saying quite frequently that Pakistan was not responsible for all the issues confronting the Muslim countries and as such should not indulge itself into issues of other countries has now drifted from this stated position.  The bottom line is that there is no dearth of issues confronting the country and as such there is no need for Pakistan to struggle solving the problems of others, that too goes against their wishes."

IRAN:  "Close Attention"

Conservative Hamshahri (9/7) noted:  "Israel has always paid close attention to countries that are Arab World neighbors.  It is trying to put an end to the political opposition of countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Nigeria in order to swallow Palestine and keep its dominance over Bethlehem.  However the political structure of Pakistan as a country that has been formed on the basis of Islam won't let Pakistani officials give up their duties in supporting Palestinians so no big progress can be seen in Israel Pakistan relations."    

"Creating Division"

Conservative Siyasat-e-Ruz (9/7) commented:  "Following the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip, lots of reports have been published regarding the diplomatic relations of Israel with some Islamic and Arabic countries.  Considering that creating division among the world of Islam has always been the most important policies of the West and Tel Aviv, it can be said that the Zionist regime is trying to create crisis among Islamic countries by splitting them so that their unity will be weakened and it will lead to weakening Islamic Conference Organization as well."

"Protest And Repulsion"

Reformist E'temad (9/3) editorialized:  "The meeting between the Pakistani foreign minister and his Israeli counterpart has caused a wave of protest and repulsion in the world of Islam, including in Pakistan.  The Palestinian leaders described the meeting as an undeserving gift to Tel Aviv.  In spite of General Musharraf's statement that the meeting was not tantamount to officially recognizing Israel but form a viewpoint of diplomacy, the meeting was at least a de facto recognition of the Zionist regime by a country whose official name includes the world 'Islamic'".

THAILAND:  "Answering Those Who Want War"

The lead editorial in the top-circulation, moderately conservative, English language Bangkok Post declared (9/12):  “Gen. Musharraf deserves major credit for taking the step of opening formal talks with Israel.  Other governments, our own neighbors Malaysia and Indonesia included, should do the same.  While peace in the Middle East remains an elusive goal, certain elements of that peace now are clear, and no longer matters for negotiation. For one thing, there will be a new country called Palestine.  For another, Israel will get a general guarantee of secure survival.  Gen. Musharraf, rather than ignore such realities, has chosen to support them in any manner possible.  This is rather an imaginative step, and deserves praise, as does the decision by Mr. Singh to talk with the Kashmir opposition.  From such audacious diplomacy comes at least a chance of permanent peace.”

WESTERN HEMISPHERE

CANADA:  "Pakistan's Engagement"

The conservative National Post opined (9/6): "Pakistan and Israel are almost the same age, born in 1947 and 1948, respectively.  But not until last Thursday did they openly have diplomatic contact.  Their foreign ministers, Khurshid Kasuri and Silvan Shalom, met near the boundary between Asia and Europe, in a hotel in Istanbul....  On the surface, at least, the talks were not the 'huge breakthrough' that Mr. Shalom called them, because Pakistan will not agree to diplomatic recognition of Israel until there is a Palestinian state--a prospect far more fraught with difficulties than any exchange of ambassadors between two nations.  But the chief significance of this meeting is that it represents the first fruits of Israel's disengagement from the Gaza Strip and four West Bank settlements....  Turkey--whose present governing party has an Islamic background--brokered the meeting, and King Abdullah of Jordan and the Palestinian Authority also encouraged it.  American influence is probable, too.  What's more, Pakistan seems to want détente with Israel to create some counterweight to the growing Indian-Israeli relationship.  For all that, President Musharraf and the rest of the government of Pakistan deserve praise for moving forward with this initiative.  In a difficult country to govern with a wide range of political forces, it required courage to ignore the inevitable shrill protests that accompanied a meeting with Israel."

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