A minister from the country that hosted Osama bin Laden has expressed thanks to American Jews for their economic support, support for ties with Israel and encouragement toward Afghan Jewish investment in rebuilding Afghanistan.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, Afghan Minister of Women's Affairs Massouda Jalal said that Afghanistan supported ties with "the countries in partnership with the US, and Israel is one of those countries."
But Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah told the Post that official relations between Afghanistan and Israel could start only following a comprehensive peace in the Middle East.
Sitting in her office, Jalal, Afghanistan's first female presidential candidate, expressed her gratitude to American Jews. "There are many Jews in the US and the US is our No. 1 helper," said Jalal. "The Jews in the US, as I have heard, have a lot of economic power. And the US is helping Afghanistan like they help their child. The people of Afghanistan realize that. Maybe a big part of [the help] comes from the Jewish people. We realize they are working hard in making money and they share money with us and they want us to live happily and peacefully. All this goodness we will never forget."
Jalal, a 42-year-old pediatrician and mother of three, covertly helped women during the oppressive Taliban regime. After the US invasion of Afghanistan and the removal of the Taliban, Jalal ran for president against Hamid Karzai.
During the reign of the Taliban, the country was ostracized by other countries in the world and Jalal plans to change that.
"Now the power is in the hands of the educated," she said, noting that Afghanistan's attitude towards Israel is "neutral."
"We are very interested in returning to the folds of the international community and be respectful of all different countries."
That could mean future relations with Israel. "We have promised to remain good friends to the US and the countries in partnership with the US, and Israel is one of those countries," said Jalal.
Jalal expressed great interest in the former Jewish community of Afghanistan. "What I know I read in the books when I was looking about minority ethnicities. I found a small percentage was Jewish. When I [did] research about them, I found out they had a cemetery in Kabul."
Upon hearing that one Jew still lives in the country she expressed great interest. "If you find him, please tell him to call my office. I want to meet him," she said.
Jalal hoped that Jewish Afghans would invest in the rebuilding of Afghanistan. "We can be good partners for Afghan Jews for rebuilding and preserving their cultural heritage," she said. "If the Afghan Jews come back and invest it will help the national economy. It is their responsibility because it is their country."
Abdullah was more cautious of Jewish investment and relations with Israel.
Peace with Israel? "I think: why not?" Abdullah told the Post in an interview from his office. But there are conditions. "If there is peace in the Middle East and a two-state solution is materialized I consider it would be normal."
In the meantime, he said that investment by Afghan-born Jews living abroad, "is a sensitive issue." He did not encourage visits by Israeli Afghans. "It is happening but it is not safe."
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