Israeli media is reporting that representatives from two Muslim majority countries, Pakistan and Indonesia, are currently in Israel on a “secret” visit focused on developing diplomatic relations. Neither of the countries currently has formal relations with Israel. The Indonesian delegation reportedly includes a “senior official.”
The nine-member delegation from Pakistan is headed by Nasim Ashraf, a former development minister. The nine-member delegation includes four who live in Pakistan and several prominent Pakistani Americans, as well as a British Pakistani imam.
The delegation conducted tours around Israel, focusing on the themes of geopolitics, history and religion, heritage, culture, and technology, with an emphasis on water technologies. Later this week, the delegation was scheduled to meet Israeli President Isaac Herzog in Jerusalem.
Military cooperation with Pakistan is important as it borders Iran. Earlier this year, Israel took part in a large-scale naval exercise in the Red Sea led by the US 5th Fleet along with Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Comoros, Djibouti, Somalia, and Yemen.
Pakistan is currently the only Muslim country with an operational nuclear capability. Last year, a Pakistani expert told i24NEWS that his country purchased technology from Israel in recent years to secure its arsenal of nuclear weapons.
It should be emphasized that although there are currently no formal diplomatic ties between Israel and Indonesia, they maintain quiet trade, tourism, and security contacts. Israel and Indonesia conduct approximately $500 million of trade per year.
In January, a “high-ranking Israeli Foreign Ministry official” told Israeli media that behind-the-scenes negotiations with Indonesia were moving the two countries closer together.
In 2012, Indonesia spoke of upgrading relations with Israel and opening a consulate, but this agreement was never implemented. According to a 2017 BBC World Service Poll, 64% of Indonesians viewed Israel’s influence negatively, compared to only 9% expressing a positive view.
Religion seems to be the reason for this divide, as Islam is the largest religion in Indonesia, with 86.7% of the Indonesian population identifying themselves as Muslim. Indonesia is the most populous Muslim-majority country, with approximately 231 million adherents and the world’s third-largest democracy.
Joining the wave of Muslim leaders reaching out to Israel, on Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in New York City that he was planning on visiting Israel. The meeting was organized by the Turkish Embassy and coincided with a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid is set to meet with Erdogan at the UN.
Turkey and Israel last month announced that they planned to restore full diplomatic ties. On Monday, the Israeli Foreign Ministry announced a new ambassador to Turkey, the first since 2018.
All this comes two years after the signing of the Abraham Accords joint normalization statements between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain. Soon after, Sudan and Morocco formally agreed to normalize ties with Israel.
Elder of Ziyon, a pro-Israel blogger, recently posted that based on population numbers from Wikipedia, Israel now has official relations with countries that represent 49.93% of the population of all Arab countries.
“If you add the countries that Israel has indirect relations with, like Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Qatar, this rises to at least 60.13% – nearly a quarter of a billion Arabs!” he wrote. “Of course, many of the Arabs within those countries still hate Israel, but this is truly an astounding statistic that could not have been dreamed of in years past.”
This reconciliation between Arabs and Muslims with the Jews is prophesied in Jewish tradition based on a verse in Genesis. After Abraham passes away, Isaac and Ishmael come to Hebron to bury him.
In this verse, Ishmael should have come first since he is older. The medieval commentator Rashi interpreted the incongruity in the verse to mean that Ishmael repented in his later years by acknowledging the spiritual superiority of Isaac. He displayed this by allowing him to go first when burying their father. This reconciliation is predicted to reappear prior to the final redemption.