'Great change': Israeli president says received delegation of Pakistani expats

Published May 29, 2022
Israel President Isaac Herzog gives a special address at the World Economic Forum annual meeting, — Screenshot courtesy: WEF website
Israel President Isaac Herzog gives a special address at the World Economic Forum annual meeting, — Screenshot courtesy: WEF website

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".

"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".

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.

PTI Chairman Imran Khan addressed the delegation's meeting during a rally in Charsadda today, saying that "slaves of the US" in the government would do everything ordered to them.

Lashing out at the government, he alleged that it would strike a deal with India at the expense of Kashmiris and also recognise Israel.

Meanwhile, PTI leader Shireen Mazari construed the Israeli leader's comments as "another commitment made to US under regime change conspiracy by imported government and other co-conspirators fulfilled!"

"Shameful subservience!" she said on Twitter.

PTI's Imran Ismail said that all those who had called party chairman Imran Khan a "Jewish agent" their entire lives were now proven to be "certified Jewish agents and slaves".

The pride of the nation is being auctioned off due to this shameful slavery, he said.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Office "categorically rejected" the notion of any delegation from Pakistan visiting Israel.

It said the visit in question was arranged by a foreign NGO and Pakistan’s position on the Palestinian issue was "clear and unambiguous". "There is no change whatsoever in our policy on which there is complete national consensus," the FO statement added.

"Pakistan steadfastly supports 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," the FO said.

Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal also said that no official or semi-official Pakistani delegation had conducted meetings.

He said the policy of the government was "clear" and it did not recognise the state of Israel. "All our sympathies are with our Palestinian brothers and sisters," Iqbal added.

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