The Israeli Foreign Minister, Silvan Shalom, has been reiterating for about a year that Israel has almost succeeded in establishing relations with ten Muslim nations. The pull out from Gaza thus sounded as if would result in the fall of the ‘iron wall’ separating Israel from the Arabs. Here, we wonder how much of Shalom’s pretensions has been realised.
Since the retreat from Gaza, the press has painted a picture suggesting that there has been a consistent improvement in Israel’s relations with the Muslim world. As an illustration, Bahrain has cancelled the boycott of Israeli goods, and the Emirates –” according to the media –” has covertly allowed opening a department for trade interests. Moreover, the Pakistani Minister of Foreign Affairs has publicly met his Israeli counterpart, who also met the Indonesian Foreign Minister at the UN headquarters. It also has been rumoured that Afghanistan is about to declare its recognition of Israel; and in last November, M.Shalom attended the World Summit of the Information Society.
However, if the reported rumours about an eventual rapprochement between Afghanistan and Israel show a kind of improvement, nothing has yet materialised. The Israeli Ministery of Foreign Affairs, ensuing a report seemingly originated in Pakistan, has then pointed out that President Karzai would declare his recognition of Israel within a few days. But nothing happened. Theureupon , a President’s spokesman said that Afghanistan’s recognition of Israel would not take place before the declaration of an independent Palestinian state. Karzai himself confirmed this view. In an interview with Yadaut Ahranut, he clearly stated that “When a progress has been achieved with Palestinians and they start building their state, Afghanistan will be pleased to establish full relationships with Israel”. And a similar view was expressed by the Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in a speech addressed to the leaders of the World Jewish Congress.
It seems that this is the essence of the Islamic world stance towards the issue of setting up full relations with Israel. This made a senior official in the Israeli Foreign Ministry admit that « the Islamic world from Libya to Afghanistan, unanimously agree that they do not want to be more Palestinian than the Palestinians themselves, and as long as Palestinians do not want these states establish relations with Israel, no Muslim country will do so ». The welcome that Sharon received in the UN General Assembly from many states will not push even Morocco to reopen its Bureau of Commercial Representation in Israel that has been closed since the outbreak of the Intifadha in 2000. In fact many indicators show that the Islamic world prefers to wait and see any developments in the situation before taking any decision.
When the ambassador of a great European country in Israel was asked what his country could do for Israel concerning this subject, he answered: “Put yourselves in their place and ask with them this question: what will Arab and Muslim nations gain from establishing relations with Israel before building the Palestinian state?” An official in the Israeli Foreign Ministry answered that question by saying that these countries would gain extra points in their relationship with the USA when they establish relations with Israel. Reality, however, no longer supports the view which Israel used to rely on –” that the road to Washington passes via Israel. What any Arab or Muslim country can do now to win American support is to back the American anti-terrorism policy. This is the very thing the USA needs now. If Sharon achieved some progress in the Islamic world by withdrawing from Gaza, many doubts still surround his measures taken after the withdrawal.