Afghanistan 'to open ties with Israel'

Israeli officials pleased, but not surprised, by news of 'trailblazer' move.

karzai 298 ap (photo credit: AP)
karzai 298 ap
(photo credit: AP)
Afghanistan has decided to formally establish relations with Israel, the Pakistani newspaper the Daily Times reported Saturday. According to the Web site of the English-language newspaper, Pakistan's ARY news channel quoted Afghani diplomatic sources as saying that the administration of Afghani President Hamid Karzai has decided to serve as a trailblazer for the Muslim world. According to the report, “The official announcement of the recognition will be made in the next few days.” The government's vital decision, the report said, “will pave the way for other Muslim countries such as Pakistan to follow suit.” While Pakistan went public with its contacts with Israel in late August when Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom met his Pakistani counterpart Khurshid Kasuri in Turkey, Islamabad has so far given no indication of formally establishing ties with Israel. Israeli Foreign Ministry officials denied comment on the story, saying they don't respond to press reports. However, senior diplomatic officials said that they were both pleased and “not surprised” by the story, and that it fit in well with the changes toward Israel that were taking place in parts of the Muslim world. Karzai gave interviews to two Israeli journalists last week, perhaps indicative of a change in his country's policy toward Israel. Shalom has been pushing hard for months for the establishment of ties with Arab and Islamic countries, saying that now that Israel has left Gaza it was a perfect time for the “iron wall” separating Israel from these countries to come down. Diplomatic sources say that the withdrawal from Gaza has opened a window of opportunity for the establishment of these ties, since public opinion in some of these states toward Israel is more favorable as a result of the withdrawal than it has ever been, and that such a move would go a long way toward improving the relationships between these countries and the US, which has expressed its interest in seeing a normalization of ties between the Islamic world and Israel. In addition to meting Kasuri, Shalom met last month at the UN with his counterparts from Indonesia and Qatar. He is also scheduled to go to Tunisia in November to attend a UN conference where meetings with other Arab and Islamic diplomats are expected.