The bilateral relations between the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the state of Israel have been complex since their establishment in 1947 and 1948 respectively, shifting from close ties to hostilities against each other. Politically and historically, both states were established based on their ideological declarations (See Two-Nation Theory and Homeland for the Jewish people) in 1947 from British Empire. Despite many attempts to establish relations between the two states, diplomatic ties have not been established and as many other Muslim countries have done; Pakistan has refused to recognize Israel. However, the relations between Pakistan and Israel are highly complex.
On many occasions, both Pakistan and Israel used their Embassies at Istanbul to mediate or exchange information with each other, for instance Pakistan used its embassy in Istanbul to pass information on a terror group to Israel in 2010 according to the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks. The 1980s saw some strong coordination between two countries when their respective intelligence agencies participated in Operation Cyclone against the Soviet Union and the Soviet war in Afghanistan its invasion of Afghanistan, based on their common mutual distrust of communism. But the hostilities are also widely reported with Israel labelling Pakistan "an antisemitic state" and Pakistan counter-labeling Israel "a Zionist and racist state". However recently, some politicians from both Israel and Pakistan have called for the normalization of diplomatic relations.
An attempt to establish diplomatic relations with Pakistan and Israel was made in 1947, when Israel's first Prime minister David Ben-Gurion sent a telegram to Jinnah—Pakistan's main founding father but Jinnah gave no particular response. Later in 1949, Israel's Foreign Ministry believed it might be possible to open legations in Karachi, then the capital of Pakistan, or at least to conduct trade openly. Initial contact between the ambassador (High Commissioner) of Pakistan in London and representatives of Israel and Jewish organizations was made in early 1950. The Pakistani government was asked to issue passage permits to India for a few hundred Jews who wanted to leave Afghanistan and wished to emigrate to Israel. The Pakistan government refused to allow them to transit through Pakistan and the Jews left through Iran.
In 1952, Sir Zafarullah Khan, Pakistan's foreign minister promoted his hardline policies toward Israel, and pressed his policies toward the unity of Arab states. Thus Khan's policy had worked to build strategic ties with Arab states.
Pakistani Attitudes towards Israel
During Israel's War of Independence, Israel's diplomatic mission in Washington received information that Pakistan was trying to provide military assistance to the Arabs including rumours that a Pakistani battalion would be sent to Israel to fight alongside them. Pakistan bought 250,000 rifles in Czechoslovakia that apparently were meant for the Arabs. Also it became known that Pakistan bought three planes in Italy for the Egyptians.
The Pakistan Air Force participated in the 1967 Six-Day War and the 1973 Yom Kippur War; Pakistani pilots flying Jordanian and Syrian planes repeatedly engaged the Israeli Air Force and shot down Israeli planes. Saiful Azam, who served as a Pakistani fighter pilot claims to have shot down at least 4 Israeli planes during the Six-Day War. After the Yom Kippur War, Pakistan and the PLO signed an agreement for training PLO officers in Pakistani military institutions. During the 1982 Lebanon War, Pakistani volunteers served in the PLO and 50 were taken prisoner during the Siege of Beirut.
After successfully destroying Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981, Israel allegedly planned a similar attack on Pakistan’s nuclear facilities at Kahuta in collusion with India in the 1980s. Using satellite pictures and intelligence information, Israel reportedly built a full-scale mock-up of Kahuta facility in the Negev Desert where pilots of F-16 and F-15 squadrons practiced mock attacks.
According to ‘The Asian Age’, journalists Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark stated in their book ‘Deception: Pakistan, the US and the Global Weapons Conspiracy’, that Israeli Air Force was to launch an air attack on Kahuta in mid-1980s from Jamnagar airfield in Gujarat, India. The book claims that “in March 1984, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi signed off (on) the Israeli-led operation bringing India, Pakistan and Israel to within a hair’s breadth of a nuclear conflagration”.
McNair’s paper #41 published by USAF Air University (India Thwarts Israeli Destruction of Pakistan's "Islamic Bomb") also confirmed this plan. It said, “Israeli interest in destroying Pakistan’s Kahuta reactor to scuttle the "Islamic bomb" was blocked by India's refusal to grant landing and refuelling rights to Israeli warplanes in 1982.” This had been India's policy for all foreign military planes/ships. Israel, on its part wanted this to be a joint Indian-Israeli strike to avoid being solely held responsible.
According to Time, French intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy, has even claimed that Daniel Pearl, an American-Israeli, was assassinated by elements with backing from Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence, (though there has been no verifiable evidence presented) over his alleged role in gathering information linking ISI and Al-Qaeda. According to other reports from BBC and Time, Pakistani militants beheaded him because of their belief that Daniel Pearl was an Israeli Mossad spy agent under the cover of being an American journalist.
In addition to these, Pakistan religious political parties and militant groups such as the Jamaat-e-Islami, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam and Lashkar-e-Taiba fiercely oppose any relationship with Israel, and have repeatedly called Israel as the enemy of Islam and Pakistan.
Israeli attitudes towards Pakistan
Pakistani officials have complained that in the past requests for fresh weapons systems from the U.S. have been "fiercely resisted by Indian and Israeli lobbyists". In the 1980s, Israel is said to have planned, with or without Indian assistance, a possible attack on Pakistan's bomb capacity.[better source needed]
Under Israeli law, Pakistan is a designated "enemy state" and an Israeli citizen may not visit them without a special permit issued by the Israeli Interior Ministry. An Israeli citizen who visits Pakistan, whether using an Israeli or foreign passport, may be prosecuted on their return to Israel.
Military intelligence cooperation
Despite the hostilities against each other, both countries are reported to have directorates to deal with each other at an intelligence level. The history of Pakistan–Israel intelligence cooperation dated back to early 1980s, when Pakistan's President and Chief of Army Staff General Zia-ul-Haq allowed ISI to established a secret directorate to deal with Israel's Mossad. Intelligence offices were set up at both countries' embassies located at Washington D.C. where Mossad and ISI, with CIA, ran a decade year long anti-Soviet operation, codename Operation Cyclone. Under this operation, Israel proliferated Soviet made-weapons to the Afghan rebels fighting the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, and Israel supplied weapons to the Pakistan Army.
WikiLeaks, in a disclosed United States diplomatic cable, revealed that ISI had secretly passed on intelligence data to Mossad. ISI had intercepted information that Israeli civilians may be targeted in a terrorist attack in India during September and November 2008 (following the 26 November Mumbai Terror Attacks that among its targets included a Jewish centre—the Nariman House). It was reported that Pakistan's Lieutenant-General Ahmad Shuja Pasha was in direct contact with Israel's Mossad.
Israel and Pakistan were both allied to the United States and the western bloc during the Cold War, while India was allied to the Soviet Union's bloc. India supported the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan and supported the pro Soviet Afghan leader Mohammad Najibullah. Pakistan and Israel opposed the Soviet invasion, with Israel supplying arms to Pakistan to give to the Afghan rebels. Israel had captured the weapons from Palestinian groups such as the PLO who were supplied by the Soviets.
Normalization of ties
Some Israeli leaders believe that should diplomatic relations with Pakistan be established as Pakistan could possibly serve as a bridge between Israel and the Muslim world including Arab countries. Although the governments of Israel and Pakistan do not officially have relations with each other, there have been a number of contacts between the two states. According to the Jang News, there continue to be multiple reports that many top Pakistani personalities and figures have visited Israel. Former President of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf has openly spoken for the diplomatic relations with Israel. He is the first Pakistani Muslim to be interviewed by Haaretz writer Danna Harman in London.
Britain's Department for Business, Innovation and Skills revealed in 2013 that Israel had exported military technology to Pakistan. In 2011, Israel sought to purchase from Britain equipment that would then be exported to Pakistan. These included electronic warfare systems and aircraft parts. Israel denied the report and Pakistan called the revelations "misleading."
Football is the only sport in which these two nations played against each other at the 1960 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers. During the 2002 Wimbledon Open, Israeli tennis player Amir Hadad teamed up with Pakistani tennis player Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi to play in the 3rd round doubles. The Israeli and Pakistani teams, with their pairing of an Israeli and a Pakistani, made headline news.
Former Foreign Minister of Pakistan Khurshid Kasuri supported ties between Pakistan and Israel. Tashbih Sayyed was a well-known Pakistani-born American who openly expressed his support of Israel in many of his columns and writings throughout his journalistic career.
- In 1947, media reports the first contact between Pakistan and Israel were made in early days of Pakistan's independence, when Israeli Prime minister David Ben-Gurion sent a secret message by phone to the founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah to recognize Israel when it declares independence, which happened in 1948. But Jinnah did not give any particular response to Israel.
- In 1949, Philippine Airlines became the only carrier to establish a direct air link between Karachi and Lod (Tel Aviv) as a sector on their Manila–London service, however it is not known whether they had traffic rights between the two, allowing passengers and cargo to be flown on the route.
- Initial contact between the ambassador (high commissioner) of Pakistan in London and representatives of Israel and Jewish organizations was made in early 1950, to open legations in Karachi, or at least to conduct trade openly.
- A meeting took place in New York between Zafrullah Khan and Abba Eban, then Israel's ambassador to the United States, on 14 January 1953 to discuss Israeli–Pakistani relations.
- In the 1980s (1980–1988), during the Soviet war in Afghanistan, CIA along with MI5, Mossad and Pakistani-based intelligence ISI, ran a covert operation named Operation Cyclone in Afghanistan to remove the Soviets from the country. During the operation Israel and Pakistan also had high-level dealings through their intelligence agencies, which included military dealings. Israel also supported Pakistan by providing Soviet weapons to Pakistan during the 1980s.
- In 1981, after Israel's attack on Iraq's Osiraq nuclear reactors in the 1980s, a similar plan to attack Pakistan's Kahuta Research facility by using Indian airfields was foiled, when the Pakistan Air Force got alerted beforehand, and took preventative measures.
- In 1993, former Prime Minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto, along with her then-Director-General of Military Operations, Pervez Musharraf, had intensified the ISI's liaison with Mossad in 1993. Bhutto is said to have had a secret meeting in New York with a senior Israeli emissary, who flew to the U.S. during her visit to Washington, D.C. in 1995.
- In 1998, Pakistan's conservative Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif sent a secret courier to Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu, assuring Israel that Pakistan will not transfer our nuclear technology to Iran to aide in their nuclear program, even though Iran's foreign minister had paid a visit.
- In 2001, Pakistan via ISI, passed intelligence about the Gulf States and the nuclear ambitions of Iran and Libya, whose programs Pakistani scientists had helped to build.
- In 2003, President Pervez Musharraf raised the issue of possible diplomatic relations with Israel.
- In 2005, the foreign ministers of the two countries held talks for the first time. However, following the meeting Musharraf said Pakistan will not recognise the state of Israel until an independent Palestinian state is established,—although, according to Musharraf, Pakistan will eventually recognize Israel.
- In 2010, according to unconfirmed "leaked" American diplomatic cables, from October 2009, head of Pakistan's intelligence agency ISI Lieutenant-General Ahmad Shuja Pasha provided intelligence on potential terrorist attacks in India to Israel through Washington. According to the cable, "He had been in direct touch with the Israelis on possible threats against Israeli targets in India." A few weeks before the cable was written, the Israeli Counter-Terror Bureau had issued a travel advisory warning of possible attacks against Israeli sites in India.
- In 2011, Israel was alleged to have exported British military technology to Pakistan.
- In 2015, Israeli scientist attended the scientific conference sponsored by Pakistan Academy of Sciences held in Lahore, Pakistan..
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Pakistan has a love-hate relationship with Israel. While we abhor Tel Aviv, secretly powerful Pakistanis happily claim similarities between the two states starting with the fact that both Israel and Pakistan were created on the basis of a religious identity.
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Pakistan is like Israel, an ideological state. Take out the Judaism from Israel and it will fall like a house of cards. Take Islam out of Pakistan and make it a secular state; it would collapse. —Zia ul-Haq, Pakistan's ruler, December 1981
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