International

Pakistan rules out any kind of ties with Israel as Netanyahu visits Oman

Pakistan President Arif Alvi on Sunday (Oct 28) ruled out establishing any kind of relations with Israel as he strongly rejected reports that an Israeli aircraft carrying some officials secretly landed in Islamabad and flew away after several hours at the airport here.

“Islamabad is not establishing any kind of relations with Israel,” President Alvi told the media before his departure for Turkey on a three-day official visit.

The story of the Israeli plane coincided with the visit of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the Sultanate of Oman. Netanyahu and his wife Sara visited Muscat on Thursday and returned on Friday (Oct 26). The visit was announced after Netanyahu returned to Israel.

The episode of Israeli plane

An Israeli journalist Avi Scharf tweeted on October 25, when Netanyahu landed in Muscat, that an Israeli business jet flew from Tel Aviv to Islamabad where it was on the ground for 10 hours, before flying back to Tel Aviv.

It may be pointed out that the Muscat Port is only 208 nautical miles from Pakistan’s strategic port Gwadar that was part of Oman till 1958 when it was sold to Pakistan for $3 million.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi also dismissed reports of an Israeli aircraft landing in Pakistan as fake and baseless. He said that something which is not even real does not warrant a response.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the “government would not negotiate in secret with either Israel or India”.

BBC Urdu reported that the aircraft in question was a Canadian-manufactured Bombardier Global Express with the serial number 9394. It was registered on February 22, 2017 in the Isle of Man in the UK by a company called Multibird Overseas Ltd.

The Israeli journalist later said he was not “100 per cent sure” if the plane had landed in Islamabad.

Pakistan and Israel do not have diplomatic relations and their aircraft are not allowed to use each other’s airspace.

Analysts are wondering if the ‘fake’ news was a message to nuclear-armed Pakistan that Israel is now in its proximity as Muscat is close to Gwadar.

According to Azriel Bermant, a research associate at the Tel Aviv-based Institute for National Security Studies, "one could argue that Islamabad poses more of a threat to Israel than Tehran does."  In an article in the Haaretz, Bermant  wrote “Pakistan test-fired a nuclear-capable ballistic missile, the Shaheen III, which Pakistani officials said can reach Israel.

The Saudi Reaction

Commenting on Netanyahu’s visit to Muscat, the Saudi TV Channel Al Arabiya pointed out that Israel has played an important role in hitting Iran’s growing influence in Syria. It took up roles that rejecting Arab countries couldn’t achieve. With this, military balance in the region was achieved.

Al Arabiya writer, Abdulrahman al-Rashed, said:

“Israel has played an important role in hitting Iran’s growing influence in Syria. It took up roles that rejecting Arab countries couldn’t achieve. With this, military balance in the region was achieved, and Israel became integral to regional security after it was once considered a poisonous apple that everyone avoided dealing with.

“The Syrian war changed the equation when Israel became an involved party. In addition to Turkey and Russia, Iran’s strong involvement in the war is what prompted Israel to enter and become a major player, especially when both America and Turkey failed in the face of Iranian regime’s expansion and hegemony in Syria, after it was clear that it is building an empire with chaotic militias.

“Even those who reject Israel in the context of the Palestinian cause found themselves compelled to welcome the intervention of Israeli air forces which dramatically changed the situation in Syria and curbed Iranian threats in the region.

“Israel imposed itself on the heart of the region’s military camps, and without its intervention, stopping the Revolutionary Guards’ expansion that succeeded on the back of Russian military and political presence would not have been possible. These are important changes in the region, and they will not stop the activities of the Israeli leaders in Muscat. It is actually the start of a political division built on conflicts in Syria, Yemen and others.”

Not surprisingly, Netanyahu has said that mutual opposition to Iran has brought Israel closer to the Gulf Arab countries, while Iran criticized the visit, saying that Israel was seeking to create divisions among Muslim countries.

Oman seeking 'regional role'

Sultan Qaboos bin Said's surprise meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was more about Oman's desire to play a role in the region than reaching a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians, Middle East Eye quoted a diplomatic source as saying.

Sultan Qaboos hosted Netanyahu in Muscat only days after he met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

While Palestinian sources said the Sultan urged both leaders to revive the stalled peace process, a Western diplomatic source indicated that Netanyahu's visit - and the way it was quietly announced after the prime minister had returned to Israel - was more about Oman and its role in the region than anything else.

"Oman is trying to play a regional role between the various parties and axes in the region, and it sees Israel as an important player in various regional issues," the diplomat told Middle East Eye. 

It may be pointed out that Oman is a member of six-state Arabian Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) that includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. 

Oman's government described Israel as an accepted Middle East state on Saturday, a day after hosting a surprise visit by Netanyahu.

Oman is offering ideas to help Israel and the Palestinians to come together but is not acting as mediator, Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, the Omani Foreign Minister told a security forum in Bahrain.

"Israel is a state present in the region, and we all understand this," bin Alawi said adding:

"The world is also aware of this fact. Maybe it is time for Israel to be treated the same [as others states] and also bear the same obligations."

Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America (www.journalofamerica.net) email: asghazali2011 (@) gmail.com

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